When Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown looks back on the nine days of early voting she administered in the lead-up to Michigan’s Nov. 7 local elections, she considers it not only a logistical success, but a good time for those working the polls.
The southeast Michigan county was one of ten throughout the state where some voters tried out in-person early voting this fall, a first in this state. The innovation was one of the key provisions of Proposal 2, a constitutional amendment that voters overwhelmingly approved last year that contained many other changes aimed at protecting and expanding ballot access, including mandating ballot drop boxes and funding postage for mail-in ballots.
In addition to adopting Prop 2 last year, Michigan voters delivered the state House and Senate to Democrats, and reelected Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, giving the party its first trifecta control of the state government in 38 years. This came after several years of Republican legislators—many of them motivated by Trumpian voter fraud conspiracies—pushing for new voting restrictions, while others in the GOP played with overturning elections and ran for office on proposals to unwind the election system.
The newly-empowered Democrats, by contrast, made democracy legislation a priority. Powered by what voting access advocates are calling a “pro-voter” majority in the House and Senate, the legislature has passed a raft of new legislation that’s meant to make it easier for people to register and cast ballots, to shore up election systems, and to protect election workers.
Kim Murphy-Kovalick, programs director of Voters Not Politicians, a group that organized to get Prop 2 on the ballot in 2022 and lobbied Lansing on voting rights this year, is glad to see so much legislation pass but acknowledges that there’s still much work to be done.
“We have a pro-voter legislature but our majorities are very slim, and there are still elected officials who do not support these measures,” she told Bolts. “So while Michigan has made great gains in the last few years, we’re in a tenuous place.”
Whatever happens with the rest of Democrats’ agenda Michigan voters will go into 2024 with stronger protections and easier access to the ballot than they’ve had in past years, and other states are already eying Lansing as a blueprint on how to strengthen democracy. But Murphy-Kovalick also warns that next year could be Democrats’ last opportunity for a while to build on their recent work.
“There are some other things that, if we end up losing a pro-voter majority moving forward, might not ever see the light of day,” said Murphy-Kovalick. “So we’re hoping to get some of these across the finish line next year to make sure that everything is in place to protect our elections, not only in 2024, but moving beyond that.”
This story was originally published by Bolts Magazine. Read more here: https://boltsmag.org/michigan-voting-bills-and-2023-session/