Voting rights advocates are ramping up efforts on a ballot initiative that seeks to expand voting access in Michigan.
On Saturday, Voter Not Politicians (VNP), the nonprofit group that successfully amended the Michigan Constitution in 2018 to create a nonpartisan citizen-led redistricting process, hosted a series of large-scale trainings and petition circulation drives in Detroit, Troy, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo for the Promote the Vote 2022 ballot initiative.
One of those taking part in the events was Lyn Pawloski, 73, of Farmington Hills. The retired elementary school teacher has been volunteering for VNP since 2017, when she started helping to get the redistricting commission onto the ballot.
“I have some concerns about our democracy right now,” Pawloski told the Michigan Advance, “and I also feel that Michigan’s voting process is kind of antiquated compared to some other states. I feel that we should all have access to the ballot no matter who we are or where we live. And I just feel that we need to make some changes to make the ballot more accessible to everybody. So expanding and modernizing our voting system is where I’m coming from.”
Promote the Vote 2022 needs to collect 425,059 valid signatures (10% of the 2018 gubernatorial election) by July 11 in order to qualify for addition to the November ballot. VNP Deputy Director Jamie Lyons-Eddy told Michigan Advance that the coalition plans to overshoot that number.
“Obviously, you need quite a bit more than that in order to have the buffer that you need, but our internal goal for Voters not Politicians is somewhere around 150 to 175,000 from just us,” she said. “We’re the largest grassroots volunteer effort behind the Promote the Vote 2022 coalition.”
The coalition also includes the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of Michigan and the NAACP. VNP officials previously said it is seeking a total of 600,000 signatures to turn in by the deadline.
Lyons-Eddy said one of the things that sets their volunteer effort apart are the in-person and online training modules with a quiz they offer to volunteer circulators.
“We have volunteers who lead teams doing data entry [and] move supplies across the state,” she said. “It would just highlight the sort of professionalism of our volunteer organization all across the state and how quickly we’re able to deploy it. We’re really proud to be able to contribute to this effort this way.”
During each event, VNP staffers and volunteers led informational training sessions for first-time volunteers and informed attendees of honest messaging and valid signature gathering, which Lyons-Eddy said stood in stark contrast to headlines about several Republican gubernatorial campaigns facing allegations of forged signatures on nominating petitions.
“We take pride in following the rules,” she said. “All of our signature collectors are trained to not only follow the proper procedures, but also to be able to speak about what’s in the petition and answer questions. So, we take the process really seriously. We believe that everybody who signs this petition is petitioning for this change, and we do take pride in doing it, doing it well and doing it right.”
Pawlowski, who started Saturday collecting signatures at the Farmington Farmers Market before heading to the training session in Troy, said getting the signatures will be just the first step toward reaching their goal.
“I really feel that we’re going to be successful,” she said. “And once we get our signatures in and validated, and it’s assured of being on the ballot in November, then we start more education of people across the state like we did in the gerrymandering days.”
Lyons-Eddy said there is a clear link between the redistricting effort and Promote the Vote 2022.
“It’s definitely similar and it’s very clear to our volunteers that this path to direct democracy is a way that they can take action to make change directly,” she said. “At least to take the change to the voters who we expect to approve it, just the way they did our redistricting reform effort. So, our volunteers see this as something they feel really strongly about, that we need these sort of common sense efforts to protect and expand voting access, and they see a direct way they can do it through collecting these signatures.”
This story was originally published by Michigan Advance. Read more here: https://michiganadvance.com/2022/05/16/voting-rights-advocates-organize-in-se-and-west-michigan-to-get-measure-on-the-nov-ballot/