Seventy-two hours before election day, Anne Ballew and her husband Tom Porter spent their Saturday afternoon darting up and down stoops to knock on doors in Dearborn, just outside Detroit. But Ballew and Porter weren’t there to talk about Michigan’s races for governor, US House, attorney general or secretary of state.
They were there to pitch voters on an under-the-radar measure in Michigan that could dramatically protect democracy in the state and offer a roadmap of how to do it elsewhere.
Proposal 2 would amend the state constitution to add a fundamental right to vote, require at least nine days of early voting, allow voters to get on a list to automatically receive a mail-in ballot, sign an affidavit if they lack photo ID, allow for the use of drop boxes, and allow only election officials to conduct post-election audits. Perhaps most significantly, it would require the bipartisan boards responsible for certifying elections in Michigan to do so based only on the official tally of votes. It’s a provision designed to prevent in the future anyone from trying to overturn the vote – something that nearly happened in Michigan in 2020.
“What we are doing as voters is enshrining protections in the constitution that already exist in state law,” said Nancy Wang, the executive director of Voters Not Politicians, a voting group leading a coalition in support of the amendment, before she set out knocking on doors in Dearborn on Saturday. “We’re protecting those rights for ourselves and our state constitution. And insulating them from political interference.”
It could have profound consequences in Michigan, a key battleground state in the US presidential election. In 2020, Donald Trump sought to overturn the results of the election in the state, which he lost to Joe Biden by more than 154,000 votes. Republicans on the board of canvassers in Wayne county, the most populous in the state, nearly refused to certify its election results. The state board of canvassers almost did the same thing, but ultimately certified the election when one of the GOP members voted to do so. He has since been replaced on the board.
“This provision specifically says ‘canvassing boards you have a legal duty to certify the results based on the votes cast by the voters.’ There’s no discretion whatsoever,” she said. “There’s nothing our politicians in the future can do to try to exploit canvassing boards to rig elections.”
The campaign marks the latest phase of a growing powerful grassroots movement in Michigan to use ballot initiatives to protect voting rights. In 2018, Voters not Politicians, led by a Michigan woman with no prior political experience, successfully pushed a ballot measure that stripped lawmakers of their ability to draw electoral districts, replacing them with an independent panel as part of an effort to rein in severe partisan gerrymandering. That same year, voters passed a separate amendment that expanded access to the ballot, including allowing for no-excuse mail-in voting and automatic voter registration.
“I think any time the people have an opportunity to weigh in on voting issues and voting policy, we get much closer to having a democracy that reflects the will of the people. And I think that’s what this proposal helps us do. Just as the proposal in 2018 helped us do,” said Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state, in an interview on Saturday.
As it pushed for the 2018 amendment, Voters Not Politicians built an army of volunteers eager to engage on pro-democracy issues. As of early November, the group had 315 active volunteer canvassers and had knocked on 81,000 doors, it said.
Eight members of that force gathered on Saturday in the living room of Dearborn residents Lawrence Biggs, 73, and Gerilyn Biggs, 69, both retired school social workers, who have been extremely active volunteers in the group. Armed with leftover Halloween candy, trail mix, T-shirts, and water, the group swapped strategies about the best approaches for talking to voters.
“2016, we knocked doors, we thought it was gonna go a different way. And when it didn’t, we really got full steam engaged in any organization we could that was gonna be pro-voter, pro-human, pro-democracy, and against Trump and those forces of evil as we saw them,” Gerilyn said.
“You’re talking about people that are willing to deny elections up and down the slate,” Lawrence added. “The risk is great. I never thought in my lifetime that I’d see this happen in the United States. But it is.”
This story was originally published by The Guardian. Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/nov/07/michigan-proposal-2-voting-access-overturning-elections