No-reason absentee voting plan meets resistance

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s fellow Republicans in the state Senate are putting up political road blocks to her plan to open absentee voting to any registered Michigan voter.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and the chairman of the Senate’s elections committee said Thursday they oppose legislation Johnson backs to make absentee ballots available to any voter, no matter the reason.

“I believe Election Day is a focal point in our electoral process for candidates, and I don’t want to diminish the value of Election Day,” said Sen. Dave Robertson, chairman of the Senate Elections and Government Reform Committee. “... I believe voting should not be effortless.”

The Republican-controlled Senate voted down amendments sponsored by Democrats.

“It’s a common-sense reform that’s long overdue,” said Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park.

Under state law, voters have to be over age 60, home-bound, in jail awaiting trial or arraignment, out of town on Election Day or have a religious reason for not being to make it to the polls so they can obtain an absentee ballot.

Johnson and House Elections Committee Chairwoman Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, teamed up earlier this week to push making absentee voting available to any voter.

Meekhof and Robertson said they would block Lyons’ bill if it makes it to the Senate.

“It is a responsibility of people to vote,” said Meekhof, R-West Olive. “They should be responsible enough that they can get to their polling place and vote.”

Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, expressed concern for having too many voters casting ballots weeks before an election while candidates are still campaigning.

“I understand how hard it is to win an election, so I want to give those candidates and the issues the time to develop and for people to be able to make their case for their candidacies,” he said.

Online notices bill stalls

The Michigan House failed to gather enough votes to pass a bill that would allow local governments to publish public notices online instead of in newspapers under a phased-in plan.

The House put the legislation up for a vote Thursday but closed voting after it appeared likely that not enough members were in favor. The bill would allow local governments to post public notices on their websites instead of in newspapers after 2025.

Supporters say allowing notices to be posted online would reduce costs for municipalities and give notices a better chance of being accessible to younger residents who might not read newspapers.

Critics say the change would provide only small savings compared to total budgets for local governments. They also say publishing notices in newspapers provides an independent record.

Associated Press