Republicans propose letting anyone vote by absentee ballot
Lansing — State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson say they are teaming up to persuade the Legislature to pass a law allowing any Michiganian to vote absentee.
Lyons, R-Alto, said she introduced a no-reason absentee voting bill Tuesday and planned to hold her first committee hearing on it Wednesday. Lyons chairs the House Elections Committee.
Johnson, also a Republican, said Michigan should catch up with 27 states and the District of Columbia by giving its citizens the option of casting absentee ballots without restrictions. She will present testimony at the hearing.
“Thanks to our long-held commitment to protecting the security and integrity of elections, Michigan is now ready to offer this option to accommodate Michigan’s hardworking families’ busy schedules,” Johnson said in a statement.
Election security steps that have been completed include the state’s first ever post-election audits, online training for Michigan’s 30,000 poll workers, the expansion of electronic poll books and a clean-up of Michigan’s voter rolls, she said.
About 20 percent of ballots cast in a typical election are voted absentee, according to Johnson.
Under Lyons’ bill, voters could apply for and receive absentee ballots at city or township clerks’ offices by meeting the same identification requirements as when voting in person on Election Day. That typically means presenting a valid drivers license or state ID card.
Existing law restricts the absentee-ballot option to voters who are at least 60 years old; unable to make it to the polls without help; expecting to be away on election day; in jail awaiting arraignment; unable to go to the polls for religious reasons; or working as election inspectors in precincts other then their own.
Lyons said voters shouldn’t have to “fib about being out of town” to cast absentee ballots in advance of election day.
“We should be realistic about absentee voting and offer the convenience to everyone eligible to vote,” Lyons said.
Johnson isn’t the first secretary of state to embrace the idea of expanding absentee voting, which consistently has fallen well short of the necessary support from the Legislature.
Her predecessor, Republican Terri Lynn Land, also proposed it, but a majority of lawmakers objected for reasons that ranged from concerns about election cheating to the possibility it would help candidates from one party more than those of the other party.