On November 6th, 2018, Michigan voters approved Proposal 18-3 which ushered in sweeping changes to this state’s election law. Effective December 22nd, 2018, the Michigan Constitution was amended to not only make several easier ways to complete voter registration, but also eliminated the hard and fast 30-day deadline to register to vote before the election. In fact, Michigan eligible electors that can show proof of residency will even be able to register ON Election Day! In addition,
Mich Const 1963, Art. II, § 4 (Place and Manner of Elections) states as follows:
- (1) Every citizen of the United States who is an elector qualified to vote in Michigan shall have the following rights:
- (a) The right, once registered, to vote a secret ballot in all elections. Contrary to popular belief, the voting process before Proposal 3 was not exactly private. The federal government retained the ability to request voter information, which in turn left this data exposed to potential Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests by interested parties to see who residents may have voted for. This constitutional amendment keeps this information secure.
- (b) The right, if serving in the military or living overseas, to have an absent voter ballot sent to them at least forty-five (45) days before an election upon application. This applies to any an active duty member of the Uniformed Services or Merchant Marine, any eligible spouse or family member of an active duty member of the Uniformed Services or Merchant Marine; or any U.S. citizen who is a permanent Michigan resident but is currently residing outside the U.S.
- (c) The right, once registered, to a “straight party” vote option on partisan general election ballots. In partisan elections, the ballot shall include a position at the top of the ballot by which the voter may, by a single selection, record a straight party ticket vote for all the candidates of one (1) party. The voter may vote a split or mixed ticket. Until Proposal 3 was passed, straight-ticket voting was under attack by Michigan officials. In the 2016 election, Gov. Snyder attempted a ban on straight-ticket voting but was blocked by order of the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the ban was successful in the 2018 election when the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals approved eliminating the straight-ticket option and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the decision. Proponents of straight-ticket voting were concerned that these bans targeted how minorities vote and would increase the wait times in voting lines. With this constitutional amendment, the straight-ticket option is now save from interference by politicians and government officials.
- (d) The right to be automatically registered to vote as a result of conducting business with the secretary of state regarding a driver’s license or personal identification card, unless the person declines such registration. Have any business at the Secretary of State office? Need to renew your license, pay for vehicle registration or replace a damaged license plate? You will be automatically registered to vote unless you opt out of this selection.
- (e) The right to register to vote for an election by mailing a completed voter registration application on or before the fifteenth (15th) day before that election to an election official authorized to receive voter registration applications. The 30-day registration deadline is shorted to 15 days. To vote at the November 5th, 2019 election, residents will have to mail in their voter registration application by October 21st, 2019. Even if you miss this deadline, residents can still appear in person anytime on or before Election Day to register as long as you provide proof of residency.
- (f) The right to register to vote for an election by (1) appearing in person and submitting a completed voter registration application registration application on or before the fifteenth (15th) day before that election to an election official authorized to receive voter registration applications, or (2) beginning on the fourteenth (14th) day before that election and continuing through the day of that election, appearing in person, submitting a completed voter registration application and providing proof of residency to an election official responsible for maintaining custody of the registration file where the person resides, or their deputies. Persons registered in accordance with subsection (1)(f) shall be immediately eligible to receive a regular or absent voter ballot. Proof of residency can include, but is not limited to, a driver’s license or state identification card, a U.S. passport, military identification, student identification from a high school or college, or even tribal identification.
- (g) The right, once registered, to vote an absent voter ballot without giving a reason, during the forty (40) days before an election, and the right to choose whether the absent voter ballot is applied for, received and submitted in person or by mail. During that time, election officials authorized to issue absent voter ballots shall be available in at least one (1) location to issue and receive absent voter ballots during the election officials’ regularly scheduled business hours and for at least eight (8) hours during the Saturday and/or Sunday immediately prior to the election. Those election officials shall have the authority to make absent voter ballots available for voting in person at additional times and places beyond what is required herein. Under Michigan’s previous election law, an applicant had to state one of six permissible reasons why he or she should be allowed to vote (60 years old or over, unable to vote without assistance at the polls, scheduled to be out of town on election day, in jail awaiting arraignment or trial, unable to attend polls due to religious reasons, or working as an election inspector in precinct outside of residence). Now, any qualified and registered voter can obtain an absentee ballot without having to give ANY reason whatsoever.
- (h) The right to have the results of statewide elections audited, in such a manner as prescribed by law, to ensure the accuracy and integrity of elections. Michigan has already started testing and implementing risk-limiting audits to detect anomilies tied to error or manipulation. Although Michigan was not known to be affected by Russian interference in the 2016 elections, the measures in place are intended to ensure that the state will not have its election results illegally affected in the future.
- All rights set forth in this subsection shall be self-executing. This subsection shall be liberally construed in favor of voters’ rights in order to effectuate its purposes. Nothing contained in this subsection shall prevent the legislature from expanding voters’ rights beyond what is provided herein. This subsection and any portion hereof shall be severable. If any portion of this subsection is held invalid or unenforceable as to any person or circumstance, that invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the validity, enforceability, or application of any other portion of this subsection.
- (2) Except as otherwise provided in this constitution or in the constitution or laws of the United States the legislature shall enact laws to regulate the time, place and manner of all nominations and elections, to preserve the purity of elections, to preserve the secrecy of the ballot, to guard against abuses of the elective franchise, and to provide for a system of voter registration and absentee voting. No law shall be enacted which permits a candidate in any partisan primary or partisan election to have a ballot designation except when required for identification of candidates for the same office who have the same or similar surnames.
If you miss the mail-in registration deadline on October 21st, 2019, don’t give up on participating in the electoral process. As long as you bring proof of residency, you can register to vote even on Election Day. If you have any questions about the changes in Michigan election law, do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.