Letter: Bring voting into modern era

A lone voter casts his ballot at the 16th voting precinct at Dearborn High School on Tuesday November 7, 2017 in ...more
A lone voter casts his ballot at the 16th voting precinct at Dearborn High School on Tuesday November 7, 2017 in Dearborn.
Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

I served as director of the state of Michigan’s Elections Bureau for 36 years, so I can say with some authority that Greg McNeilly does not understand and grossly mischaracterized Proposal 3 in his recent opinion piece (“Don’t hijack Michigan’s Constitution,” Sept. 27). His scare tactics are not based on facts. Here are the facts on how Proposal 3 will increase security and remove barriers to voting:

*Proposal 3 does NOT provide election day registration in polling places on election day. The only location for election-day registration is in a city or township clerk’s office. Therefore, costs imagined by McNeilly will not exist.

*Proposal 3 requires election officials to conduct post-election audits to ensure that the election results are accurate.  Post-election audits required by legislation under Proposal 3 will supplement and improve current performance audits.  Post-election audits of election ballots are required by law in 32 states, but not in Michigan. Mandatory post-election audits will enhance citizens’ confidence in Michigan elections.

*Proposal 3 increases security in our voter registration system while improving access.  Under the proposal, voters can register to vote up to 2 weeks before the election and then only in person before an election official with proof of residency during the 14 days before the election and on Election Day.  Same-day registrants will have to provide more evidence of their residency than voters who register by mail do currently, which will significantly deter fraud. Clerks will enter election-day registrants into the real-time statewide voter registration file and using that same system verify that the registrants have not registered elsewhere on election day. Of course, the registrant must comply with picture ID law before receiving an absentee ballot.

*Finally, Proposal 3 will significantly increase voting access by giving voters the option of casting an absentee ballot without having to provide an excuse. The District of Columbia and 26 states offer no-reason absentee voting but Michigan requires voters to fit into one of six narrow categories in order to vote absentee.  Lots of people struggle with getting to the polls on Election Day for many reasons including work schedules, childcare and voting location distance in rural communities. 

We should not exclude entire categories of eligible voters from exercising the most sacred right of citizenship. Furthermore, more absentee voters will also mean shorter lines at the polls on Election Day for those who choose to vote in person. Michigan once was the gold standard for voting access. We’ve fallen behind by not permitting every voter an opportunity to vote before Election Day. Proposal 3 will bring us into the modern era of voting.

Ensuring that voting is accessible and that ballots are secure and counted are an elections official’s most important responsibilities.  

Chris Thomas, former director

Michigan Bureau of Elections


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