Michigan Legislature Passes Bill Expanding Automatic Voter Registration to Formerly Incarcerated People

UPDATE: On Thursday, Nov. 30, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed the bill into law.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Michigan Legislature passed a bill last week that would greatly build on the state’s current automatic voter registration system and expand access to formerly incarcerated individuals.

The legislation would require the Michigan Department of Corrections to work in conjunction with the secretary of state to automatically register eligible individuals to vote when they are released from incarceration, unless the applicable individuals decline to be registered.

Currently, Michiganders are only automatically registered to vote when they obtain, update or renew their driver’s license or state ID.

The Department of Corrections is not the only state agency that would be impacted. The bill would also mandate that the Department of Health and Human Services provide the secretary of state with information related to individuals eligible for voter registration who applied for Medicaid coverage — a move that could add more than 383,000 individuals to the voter rolls, according to the Institute for Responsive Government.

Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou (D), who sponsored the bill, told Bolts Magazine that her colleagues and her “wanted to… get people registered any time they’re interacting with our government, which includes Medicaid offices and the Department of Corrections.”

Additionally, Indian tribes within the state could request that the secretary of state allow the tribe’s governing body, or other designated representative, to submit information to the secretary’s office that would help register and preregister tribal members.

In an effort to increase transparency, the newly passed bill would require the secretary of state to publicly release monthly reports concerning automatic voter registration and preregistration, and would permit the state’s chief elections officer to designate other state agencies as automatic voter registration agencies. 

The automatic voter registration bill awaits the signature of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who is expected to sign the legislation.

Read the bill here.

Track the bill’s status here.