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After successful 2018 campaign, ‘Promote the Vote’ goes back to voters with Prop 2

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Four years ago, Michigan voters approved several changes to the state constitution dealing with elections. They included no-excuse absentee voting and same-day registration.

The next general election saw both record turnout* and lies meant to overturn its results. Now, the same group behind that 2018 proposal is going back before voters with a new constitutional amendment.

Proposal 2 will appear on the ballot as nine bullet points. Some create something new, like a nine-day early voting period or a way to sign up to vote absentee in all future elections. Others strengthen existing policies, like the ability to vote without a photo I-D by signing an affidavit.

League of Women Voters of Michigan co-president Christina Schlitt is part of the Promote the Vote coalition that got Prop 2 on this year’s ballot.

“These are fundamental rights that should be in the constitution and voters in Michigan should be the only ones to change that. Not Legislatures that could be influenced by partisan thinking,” Schlitt said.

She said the proposal makes it easier to vote and fights back against threats to elections.

Prop 2 includes language requiring canvassing boards to certify election results based only on official vote records. Another piece limits post-election audit authority to only election officials.

“It would be commonsense and should be commonsense. But with some election denying that’s going on, some Legislatures might tamper with the results,” Schlitt said.

2020 saw a push to not certify President Biden’s victory in Michigan. That’s despite him winning the state by thousands of votes. Some state lawmakers allegedly tried to help self-appointed electoral college members get into the state capitol to falsely award Michigan’s votes to former President Trump.

But not everyone is convinced enshrining sentiments, like a “fundamental right to vote,” in the state constitution will help tame conspiracies. Jamie Roe is the spokesperson for a group trying to tighten the state’s voter ID laws, Secure MI Vote.

“A lot of people don’t trust the outcome of elections. They don’t believe that they’re being conducted fairly … And the fact of the matter is that’s going to get worse if this passes,” Roe said.

Beyond its provisions for voters without an ID, Roe criticizes Prop 2 for explicitly allowing private donations to help fund elections. Under the proposal, those would be disclosed.

But Roe brought up concerns over what would happen if interest groups, like the NRA or Right to Life, began getting involved with funding.

“I just wonder if the other side has thought that completely through because what they’re going to start with this is an arms race and I think it’s crazy,” Roe said.

Analysis from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy points out nothing in state law currently prohibits third parties from donating to local governments for election causes, as they did in 2020.

University of Michigan-Dearborn Professor Dale Thomson doesn’t believe Prop 2 would weaken election security.

“It is about election integrity … it is about avoiding circumstances like we’ve seen under the big lie of the 2020 election that it was stolen, preventing folks who are in appointed positions or elected positions from circumventing the will of the voters,” Thomson said.

Noting the impact of Promote the Vote’s 2018 amendment, he said this year’s proposal would continue protecting voters against disenfranchisement.

“I think that there’s a benefit to expanding voter access and enshrining that. And the attacks that we’ve seen from a legislative perspective are not justified and they’re frankly meant to suppress the vote,” Thomson said.

Both supporters and opponents of Prop 2 argue they’re looking out for voters’ best interests.

Only a small fraction of voters uses a signed affidavit at the polls, but supporters say it’s worth having to make sure not even one person loses out.

Meanwhile, studies have shown voter fraud to be rare. The state has pressed charges against the few who do commit it. Prop 2 opponents argue stricter ID laws would prevent anyone from cheating.

Voters will have to figure out where they stand. While knocking doors for Prop 2, Jackson resident Mike McKenny found himself talking with a man who didn’t seem entirely persuaded.

“We had a really nice conversation and we carried it on like that. I think a big deal of doing this is to start re-establishing some of that trust that we’ve lost,” McKenny said.

It’s less than likely either side will stop their work regardless of what happens to Prop 2. The road to healing, however, could take longer than one election cycle.