Back in November of 2014 Up North Progressive published a story about how one state in the US had a significantly high turnout of voters despite it being a midterm election. The reason why they had a successful election while everyone else battled apathy and GOP-fueled disenfranchisement was because every registered voter in that state received their ballot in the mail three weeks before election night. The state is Oregon, where 69.5% of eligible voters casting a ballot is considered low voter turnout. In Michigan, only 41% bothered to show up at the polls in 2014.
Michigan has far too many obstacles that make voting difficult. Precincts open at 7 am and close at 8 pm, but many people are on their way to work at 7 am, and people come home from work at night, eat dinner, and usually have evening activities going on that keeps them from voting. There are also problems with people working 2nd shift or 3rd shift that may find it difficult to vote. Then there are the people working more than one job trying to make ends meet who simply don’t have the time to get to the polls to vote. Absentee ballots are available if you provide a reason why you can’t go to your precinct on election day, and usually the reasons are you’re a student or traveling (Often due to work), or have a health reason that keeps you from going to the polls. While other states have adopted early voting and no-reason absentee ballots, Michigan has not.
Oregon leads the nation in making voting the most accessible for registered voters. Your ballot arrives three weeks before election day, giving you plenty of time to read over the candidates, ballot issues, and being able to make informed choices. Ballots need to be mailed a week before election day, and the state provides drop off boxes for people who wait until the last minute. Oregon saves about $3 million on elections by having people vote this way.
And it works. Elections are fraud proof; the double envelope the voter uses to mail their ballot ensures ballots are not tampered with. Oregon provides a website voters can check the status of their ballot and whether it has arrived at their voting precinct. And this year, the governor of Oregon signed a new law that automatically registers every person who can legally vote in the state. Registering every American citizen when they turn 18 was recently endorsed by Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Washington State and Colorado has also adopted the vote-by-mail system. California is in the process of introducing vote-by-mail in that state. Now a group of people in Michigan want to make Michigan the next vote-by-mail state.
Let’s Vote, Michigan! are currently working on petition language to submit to the State Board of Canvassers in Lansing. They’re collecting donations to print petitions and will need help canvassing for signatures in order for the petition to make it on the 2016 ballot. This ballot initiative will require changing the Michigan State Constitution, and if successful will make Michigan a vote-by-mail state.
And with Michigan’s most recent low voter turnout, petition canvassers will need to collect fewer signatures than petitioners needed for ballot initiatives before the 2014 election.
No one can argue that registering more eligible voters in Michigan and having them cast a ballot is a bad thing. This is the most bipartisan issue Michiganians can get behind and support. Let’s Vote, Michigan! is ready to take the lead. Please join them and help them make vote-by-mail a reality in our state.