Justice

Election petition could ban election volunteers

Experts say a petition going around to change voting rules could have the unintended consequence of barring election volunteers.

A major effort is underway to implement voting restrictions in Michigan. The Secure MI Vote initiative aims to require voter IDs, limit absentee voting, and restrict how elections are funded. But an unintended consequence of the petition language would eliminate many volunteers from the elections process.

The specific language would bar local election officials from accepting private cash or “in-kind” assistance. It was prompted by donations from Facebook to local clerks to help with voting services in advance of the November 2020 election.

Election experts say it would also bar churches from donating their buildings as polling locations, and it would prohibit elections officials from working with independent groups such as the League of Women Voters.

The Michigan chapter of the League of Women Voters regularly works with election officials to mail absentee ballots, register voters, and provide voter information.

“It’s frustrating for us, because we want to do the right thing and have people participate in democracy, and we just feel like we — and all Michigan voters — are being stymied by this proposal,” Christina Schlitt, co-president of the Michigan chapter of the League of Women Voters, told Bridge Michigan.

Republican political leaders are behind the ballot initiative. Michigan law would allow the Republican-led legislature to unilaterally make the petition into law if it receives enough votes to make it on the ballot.

[Bridge Michigan]