Bills built around Prop 3 voting changes head to governor's desk

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Shanel Thomas (center) of NextGen America oversees Michigan State University students registering to move their registration to East Lansing so they can vote locally in the midterm election.

Lansing — A package of bills that its Republican sponsor says codifies voter-approved changes to voting rules is headed to the governor's desk after securing approvals form the Legislature Thursday. 

The package of elections-related bills passed by varying margins in the House, largely along party lines on the last day of the lame-duck session. 

Supporters say the bills create enabling language needed to implement Proposal 3, which would allow for same-day voter registration, straight-ticket voting, no-reason absentee voting and regular election audits.

Opponents said the legislation would limit access for potential voters by requiring resident to visit a local clerk’s office for registering within 14 days of the election, a problem in larger districts where would-be voters would have to drive to a particular location to register.

Polling place registration would hold up lines, said Gideon D'Assandro, a spokesman for GOP House Speaker Tom Leonard. In any case, the automatic registration required under Proposal 3 will greatly reduce the need for same-day registration, he said. 

"It's going to be very few people who actually use that because they're going to be automatically registered from now on," D'Assandro said. 

Rep. Vanessa Guerra, D-Saginaw, spoke out against the legislation and urged more consideration before its passage.

“It is a disservice to every Michigander to rush through the changes,” Guerra said.

Democratic Rep. Christine Greig of Farmington Hills said the legislation weakened key elements of Proposal 3 and was part of an ongoing effort to maintain "voter suppression tactics."

"The people of Michigan made it clear that they want more accessibility in the election process, not more obstacles," said Greig, who also is the House minority leader-elect. "Michiganders made their choice, and it’s time for Republicans to stop standing in their way.”

The bill cleared the House Elections and Ethics Committee Wednesday in a 6-3 vote, after testimony in which opponents criticized the lack of collaboration with the Proposal 3 ballot committee, Promote the Vote, on the legislation.

In addition to the language regarding registration, the package clarifies the audit procedure and automatic registration, and adjusts existing election law to be in line with the voter-approved changes.

“Nothing in this bill conflicts with any rights guaranteed under Prop 3,” GOP Sen. Mike Kowall of White Lake said Wednesday. “This action is necessary to ensure that Prop 3 is carried out according to the intent of voters while clarifying several areas that are left open to interpretation.”

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