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Same-day registration & no-reason absentee ballot laws remove hurdles for new voters

by Josiah Thomas, News Editor

There’s a movement afoot to make lifetime voters out of people registering for the first time and casting their ballots. Proposal 3, which allows same-day voter registration and does away with having voters give a rationale for the absentee ballot, makes voting the most accessible it has ever been in this state.

According to Kristi Dougan, Voter Outreach Coordinator with the Michigan Secretary of State, this was put forward to increase voter turnout, with particular focus on new voters and educating them on their right to vote, as well as giving them an opportunity to have their voices heard. “Any time that we can increase the convenience to voters, to allow them to be eligible to vote and to lower any barriers to being issued a ballot is a good thing,” said Dougan.

This was not introduced by the state Legislature or the Secretary of State, but instead by voters living among us.

The motivation behind this voter-driven proposal, Dougan continued, was “to make sure that voters are able to make their voices heard and be registered to vote and be able to request a ballot for an election with minimal barriers.”

As the name suggests, same-day voter registration gives new voters the option to register if they either haven’t done it already or their name doesn’t appear on the list of qualified voters at their local polling place. In this scenario, first-time voters or those who are not yet registered to vote in the new area they have moved to don’t have to worry about being cut off from voting if they haven’t done so 30 days before Election Day.

Now, if new voters wait until Election Day to register, they can go to the city/township clerk’s office, provide material proof that they are over 18, are U.S. citizens, and have fulfilled Michigan’s state residency requirements. At the clerk’s office, the new voters will be able to both register to vote and update their personal information so that they’ll be eligible to vote in their community (if they’ve recently moved). Student records, passport, state ID and Social Security cards are among the materials needed to register.

New voters must be mindful that 15 days before Election Day is the most ideal time to register and make any corrections to their personal information, in order to ensure that their info is correct and up to date, but they can still do either one on Election Day. If they arrive at the polling place without having registered to vote first, election workers will direct the potential voter to their local clerk’s office to register.

Where provisional ballots have to be relied on when questions arise about a voter’s eligibility, which must be resolved before a vote can be counted, same-day voter registration simply lets the voter take care of it at the city/township clerk’s office and allows the new voter to have a ballot cast with minimal barriers.

With absentee ballots under the state’s constitution, voters no longer need an explanation for casting one and can cast one by mail in their first election. All requests to have an absent voter ballot mailed to one’s location have been received by the local city/township clerk no later than 5 p.m. the Friday before an election. Ballots must be completed and turned into the clerk’s office before 8 p.m. on the day of the election.

Fears of an increase in voter fraud due to these new laws can rest easy knowing that local election administrators, as well as city/township clerk’s offices all across the state have access to a real-time voter registration database.

Voters, new or otherwise, are required to have their voting information entered in at the polling place. Any discrepancies such as a change of address or name, discrepancies about their citizenship or age will be entered into this database and be provided with quick feedback on whether they are clear to vote or must go and solve any discrepancies at the local clerk’s office. Bearing this in mind, a voter is allowed to go through this process only once on Election Day and cannot repeat this in another jurisdiction.

Voters have a lot of options. It is important to know these options because the best possible way to change this country for the better is to vote.