Reducing the Barriers to Voting

By Melanie C. Hagan posted 11-12-2018 09:55


Last week, voters overwhelmingly (67 to 33 percent) voted yes on Proposal 3, the proposal to amend Article II, section 4 of the Michigan Constitution. The proposal allows a citizen who is qualified to vote in Michigan to

  • become automatically registered to vote when applying for, updating, or renewing a driver’s license or state-issued personal identification card, unless the person declines,
  • simultaneously register to vote with proof of residency and obtain a ballot during the two-week period before an election, up to and including Election Day,
  • obtain an absentee voter ballot without providing a reason, and
  • cast a straight-ticket vote for all candidates of a particular political party when voting in a partisan general election.

According to the Brennan Center, automatic voter registration is gaining traction in the United States. As of April 2018, 12 states plus the District of Columbia have instituted automatic voter registration. The Brennan Center states that automatic voter registration boosts registration rates, reduces the potential for voter fraud, and makes voting more convenient.

Same-day voter registration is allowed in at least 17 other states, including Idaho, Colorado, and Wisconsin. Outgoing Secretary of State Ruth Johnson expressed some concern about this aspect of the proposal. Her concern focused on clerks’ having insufficient time to confirm a voter’s address, which she felt could open the door to voter fraud. However, other states with same-day registration report no increase in voter fraud.

At least 37 other states and the District of Columbia allow voters to obtain absentee ballots for any reason. Before the passage of Proposal 3, Michigan required voters under 60 to choose from a list of reasons why they need to vote absentee. Allowing anyone to vote absentee will make it easier for working parents, people with disabilities, and people with transportation concerns.

Finally, Proposal 3 restores straight-party ticket voting, which was eliminated in 2015, 2015 PA 268. The statute eliminating straight-party ticket voting, MCL 168.795c, was subject to a constitutional challenge and blocked from taking effect until the challenge was rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The 2018 general election in Michigan did not allow straight-party ticket voting. Seven other states provide for straight-ticket voting.

Article XII, section 2 of the Michigan Constitution requires that the proposed amendment become part of the constitution 45 days after the date of the election.