early voting

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Voters’ rights groups are gathering signatures for a constitutional amendment to make registering to vote easier in Michigan. The “Promote the Vote” campaign is being backed by several groups including the League of Women Voters of Michigan.

sign that says "vote here"
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A ballot campaign will begin collecting signatures to add a voting rights amendment to the state constitution.

The effort is backed by the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, and the Detroit branch of the NAACP.

The ACLU’s Kary Moss says the proposal would allow early voting and make it easier for people to vote absentee.

“If somebody wants to vote absentee, they have to be over 60 years old, they have to have an excuse," Moss said. "This proposal would allow for no-excuse absentee voting.”

people in voting booths
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Hard to believe, but today would have been Ronald Reagan’s 107th birthday. I remember meeting him when he made a surprise visit to the press tent at an international economic summit conference in 1983. He seemed bigger in real life than I had expected.

The next year, I remember seeing him in a soft rain, urging everyone to go out and vote, and to get their friends and neighbors to do the same. That was when he was running for reelection, in a campaign where the only real question was whether he’d win all fifty states.

Vote Here sign
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

A petition drive hopes to put a voters’ rights amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot.

The amendment would let people vote absentee without giving a reason. It would allow early voting. And it would guarantee the right to vote a party-line ticket with one mark on the ballot. 

“We need to make sure that voting is accessible to all citizens and that everyone’s vote gets counted,” said Judy Karendjeff with the League of Women Voters.

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Democrats in Lansing are seeking what they call a “Voting Bill of Rights.” That means no-reason absentee voting, early in-person voting, voter registration as late as 15 days before an election, and other things making it easier for people to vote.

Republicans have, in the past, offered bills for stricter voter identification laws.

An absentee ballot in an envelope.

Lots of people have been surprised to learn that absentee voters in Michigan can change their ballots even if they've already cast them – as long as they do it by 4 p.m. on Monday.

"The old ballot will be voided," said Michigan Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams. "It will not be counted."

Woodhams said absentee voters can request a re-do for any reason. But it's usually to correct a mistake, like voting for too many candidates or skipping portions of the ballot.

"This is really an uncommon thing," Woodhams said. "But it does happen from time to time."

Last month the state approved petition language for three more ballot proposals – but the organizers of one isn’t satisfied. She's not dissatisfied with what the state did, but with the language her group submitted. They want to make sure they get it as close to right as possible.

They’ve talked to lawyers, revised the wording, and plan to ask the state to allow them to substitute the new text. After that, they have to try and get 315,654 valid signatures.

Last week I discussed a new bill that would make it easier for citizens to get absentee ballots in Michigan, a bill sponsored by a Republican state representative, Lisa Posthumus Lyons, and enthusiastically supported by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

She’s also a conservative Republican and Michigan’s chief elections official. The bill is scarcely radical; it would merely allow any voter who wants an absentee ballot to get one. Two-thirds of the states already allow what is called “no-excuse” absentee voting.

For years, Michigan has made it harder to cast a vote than most other states. Most states now have early voting, where you can show up at the polls and cast a vote on certain days before the election.

Most states also allow anyone to request an absentee ballot who wants one, no questions asked. There are only fourteen states that don’t allow either option. And Michigan, along with Mississippi and Alabama, is one.

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Election Day is just under a month away.

But Michigan Radio political commentator Jack Lessenberry has already voted – at his kitchen table, with an absentee ballot.

If you are a politician, or promoting one of the ballot proposals and want to influence my vote, don’t waste your time.

I voted a week ago, by absentee ballot, even though I may be home on election day. I can do that because I am 60 years old. Hey, you should be able to get some benefit out of being 60.

But here’s the thing. Unless you are my age or older, you can’t legally get an absentee ballot, except in a very few cases, mostly if you know you are going to be in jail on election day, or out of town.