WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, June 22, Michigan Senate Democrats introduced Senate Bills 401, 402, 403 and 404, which collectively would establish the Michigan Voting Rights Act (MVRA). The bills were developed in tandem with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D).
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court undermining the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) over the past decade, states are increasingly looking to pass their own state-level protections. Michigan would join six other states — California, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Washington — with state VRAs.
Michigan legislators sponsoring the bill said the goal of the MVRA is to prohibit voter suppression, ensure that non-english speakers have equal access to participate in Michigan elections, enhance protections for voters with disabilities who need assistance and prohibit coercive and deceptive practices intended to prevent certain groups from voting.
Specifically, the bill package would:
- Create a preclearance program to prevent local governments with a history of discrimination from enacting changes that would harm voters of color,
- Establish a voter education fund intended to educate the public and train election workers,
- Implement a Voting and Elections Database and Institute to provide relevant election data for Michigan voters,
- Require the translation of election materials and hiring of bilingual poll workers to make voting accessible regardless of one’s proficiency in English and
- Mandate curbside voting for elderly voters and voters with disabilities.
The Michigan Legislature has already passed a slate of pro-voting bills implementing Proposition 2, a ballot measure passed by voters last year. State Senator Stephanie Chang (D), a sponsor of the legislation, said: “Michigan voters have made it very clear that they want to ensure access to our democracy, and the Michigan Voting Rights Act bill package will be another historic step forward to accomplish that goal.”