A group in Michigan called Promote the Vote wants to make private funding of elections, early voting, and the use of ballot drop boxes part of the state’s Constitution.
The proposed constitutional amendment reads in part, “A county, city, or township conducting an election may accept and use publicly-disclosed charitable donations and in-kind contributions to conduct and administer elections.”
In 2018, Promote the Vote sponsored a successful petition drive leading to voter-approved amendments that allowed no-excuse absentee voting, same-day voter registration, and automatic voter registration for any person having contact with the office of the Michigan Secretary of State.
A little over 425,000 valid signatures must be obtained by July 11 for the initiative to be placed on the November ballot. If approved by voters, the changes would be in effect for the 2024 presidential election.
The proposal, if approved, would mandate the installation and use of at least one “state-funded secure” ballot drop box in every municipality in Michigan. Larger communities would be required to have one ballot drop box for every 15,000 registered voters. The drop boxes would be put in place 40 days before any election and could be used to receive applications for absentee ballots as well as voted ballots.
Early voting would also become a constitutional right in Michigan under the proposal. The amendment mandates that early voting sites must be open for at least nine consecutive days prior to the election and operate for at least eight hours a day. More days and more hours could be added “at the discretion of the election official” in charge in each jurisdiction.
The petition language put forward by Promote the Vote also would prohibit the state legislature from stiffening voter ID requirements. It would restrict the conducting of post-election audits to county officials supervised and directed by the secretary of state, and bar any participation by representatives of the political parties.
The amendment states, “Election audits shall be conducted in public based on methods finalized and made public prior to the election to be audited.”
Jamie Roe, a longtime Republican activist, told The Epoch Times that honest election reform should make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.
“The Promote the Vote efforts just make it easier to cheat,” he said.
Roe is a spokesperson for Secure MI Vote, an organization that’s circulating a petition to change state statutes to prohibit private donations from funding elections and prohibit the government from sending out absentee ballot applications unless requested by the voter.
The plan requires a photo ID for in-person voting and requires a driver’s license, state ID card, or partial Social Security number on all absentee ballot applications submitted by the voter. The initiative would give state-funded ID cards to those experiencing hardship.
A partial Social Security number would have to be provided in order to register to vote.
A Democratic website characterized the Secure MI Vote petition as “a deceptive effort to silence the voice of the people. … It’s about making it harder to vote and more difficult for clerks to run elections.”
Secure MI Vote must obtain 340,000 valid signatures by June 1 to qualify for the November ballot.
If the petition drive succeeds, the legislature is permitted by the state constitution to vote to make the Secure MI Vote proposal the law of the land. Should the legislature not enact the proposal, it would then go to a referendum.
Both houses of the Michigan legislature have Republican majorities.
“By going through the citizen initiative petition process, and then having the legislature enact them, the provisions will not be susceptible to a veto by Governor [Gretchen] Whitmer,” Roe said.
In October 2021, Whitmer, a Democrat, vetoed three GOP-sponsored voter ID and election integrity bills.
If the Promote the Vote and Secure MI Vote proposals both pass, the Promote the Vote initiative would take precedence because it amends the Michigan constitution rather than just changing state statutes.
A large majority of Michigan voters favor voter ID and enhanced ballot security, according to several polls.