As a former prosecutor, I base decisions on facts. Let’s look at what happened in 2020.
First, during a pandemic when people were encouraged to stay home and keep their distance, millions of voters cast ballots safely. In Michigan, we saw record voter turnout. More than 5 million registered voters cast ballots, including more than 3 million who voted by absentee ballot.
Second, let’s look at how election officials did their jobs. Local clerks stepped up to meet new challenges. Recall that this was the first presidential election after voters in 2018 passed Proposal Three, which amended the state constitution to guarantee every voter the right to cast an absentee ballot. In light of the challenges posed by the pandemic, the timing could not have been better, and clerks rose to the occasion to enable voters to use the absentee voting option. Seniors have long enjoyed the convenience of absentee voting, and I was glad that the rest of my family and I could do the same this time around. We placed our own absentee ballots in a drop box after hours not far from our home, and we were relieved to avoid voting in person and exposing ourselves to risk of COVID-19 infection.
Third, let’s evaluate evidence of election fraud. Courts in Michigan rejected allegations of fraud in the 2020 election for lack of any evidence. More than 250 election audits were conducted and every one affirmed the integrity of the election.
In short, nothing went wrong in the 2020 election in Michigan. And yet, there are efforts afoot to make it harder to vote.
Voting is a right. Voting is not a privilege. That’s why we have a responsibility to enable citizens to exercise their right to vote. It has taken us awhile to get there and, as a nation, we’re still working on it. Until 1920, women were denied their right to vote. Until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, people of color were routinely denied their right to vote. Now, a nationwide movement is seeking to pass legislation to make it harder for some people to vote. Our goal should be to move forward, not backward.
The package of bills being debated in Lansing would take us in the wrong direction. These bills would create obstacles that would make it more difficult for certain voters to cast ballots. For example, the proposed bills would forbid the Secretary of State from mailing absentee ballot applications to all voters or posting the application on its website. The bills would also require voters to include with their absentee ballot application a copy of their ID, a step that could pose a roadblock for voters without access to a photocopier, and a requirement that increases a voter’s risk of identity theft. The bills would curtail the use of drop boxes, forcing voters to drive extra miles to a clerk’s office or rely on the U.S. Postal Service, which has experienced delays in delivering ballots. The bills would also prohibit clerks from processing absentee ballots before Election Day, despite the recommendation of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks to permit this practice to avoid delays in election results. Other states allow early processing and were able to provide election results in 2020 before Michigan.
Cynics suggest that this whole effort to combat election fraud is just a smokescreen to make it more difficult to vote and discourage the kind of turnout we saw in 2020 to favor the political fortunes of those who are advocating for change. Regardless of motive, the changes being proposed in Lansing make no sense.
Rather than eliminating steps that enabled high voter turnout, we should be codifying them into law so everyone’s voice is safely heard on Election Day. And, we should be listening to the men and women on the front lines who conduct our elections. It’s time for Michigan lawmakers to stop pretending to fix problems that don’t exist and honor the right to vote.