At Detroit NAACP, Whitmer signs voting rights bills ⋆

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law a set of bills on Thursday that she said “will ensure every vote in Michigan can be cast and counted, no matter who you are or where you live.” 

“In Michigan, we are proving through our actions that we stand for fundamental American values of freedom and democracy,” Whitmer said in Detroit alongside advocates and state leaders. 

The signing builds on months of Democratic lawmakers taking action to implement Proposal 2 of 2022, which enshrined voting rights in the state constitution, and deliver on democracy protection policies. 

Whitmer signed voting rights legislation that was designed to improve election efficiency, increase voter registration opportunities and protect equal access to the ballot box. She also signed legislation protecting election workers, allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, automatically registering people to vote after they leave prison and regulating artificial intelligence in political ads.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signing a set of bills centered on voting rights protection in Detroit on Thursday. | Ken Coleman

The event that included several state lawmakers, like House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit), was held at the Detroit Branch NAACP headquarters. Others attending the news conference were the civil rights organization’s president, the Rev. Wendell Anthony; Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson; Rebeka Islam, APIAVote executive director; Wayne County Executive Warren Evans; and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. 

Anthony praised Whitmer, Benson and the Democratic-led state Legislature for their actions. 

“Today the people have been given some new tools,” Anthony said. “These tools will help every community to build on the foundation of a democracy which includes all people regardless of race, gender, location, age or station.” 

Duggan praised the state Legislature’s effort and pointed out that GOP Trump supporters falsely vilified Detroit voters with voting fraud claims during the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. 

“Five separate lawsuits in state and federal court and all five found that [Detroit City Clerk] Janice Winfrey ran a good and clean election,” Duggan said. 

Benson, a Detroit resident, also spoke during the news conference. 

“We are here today to protect the people who protect democracy,” she said. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in Detroit on Thursday at a voting rights bill signing. | Ken Coleman

Two of the sponsors, state Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and state Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing), both attended the news conference.  

One of the bills, House Bill 4983, was sponsored by Tsernoglou. It will automatically register people to vote upon exiting prison. 

Nicole D. Porter, senior director of advocacy for The Sentencing Project, applauded Whitmer and the Legislature for “passing the first law in the nation that will require a state to register people to vote when they’re released from prison.

“Research demonstrates that taking away peoples’ right to vote due to their involvement with the criminal legal system impedes formerly incarcerated people’s ability to reintegrate into their communities,” Porter added. “Expanding voting rights can be linked to a reduced likelihood that an individual will commit another crime. While there is more work to be done, this bill is a significant step in the right direction.”

Here are all the bills Whitmer signed: 

House Bill 4129 creates specified criminal penalties for intimidating an election official or preventing an election official from performing their duties during an election where the first two offenses are misdemeanors and a third offense is a felony.

Senate Bill 505 sets the penalty for a felony charge of intimidating an election worker or preventing them from performing their duties at a maximum of five years in prison.

Senate Bill 385 will amend state election laws to permit clerks to accept electronically submitted election inspector applications.

House Bill 4569 will allow pre-registration for elections for applicants that are at least 16 years old but not older than 17 and a half in an effort to increase youth voter turnout when they become eligible to vote.

Senate Bill 594 will expand the options for documents to identify individuals looking to register to vote to include using the last four digits of their social security number 

House Bills 4983, 4984, 4985, and 4986 create expansions to Michigan’s automatic voter registration process which will not take effect until June 30, 2025. 

Senate Bill 529 aims to bring Michigan into compliance with the federal Electoral Count Reform Act by implementing guidelines for how the governor issues a confirmation of election results and sets other guidelines for ballots that were rejected at the fault of election officials

Senate Bill 590 and 591 add clarity for the process to challenge the board of state canvassers’ certification of a presidential election.  

Senate Bill 570 bans county clerks from conducting an election audit if the clerk serves as an officer or member of a political party or as a precinct delegate.

House Bills 5141 and 5143 define artificial intelligence as it pertains to Michigan’s Campaign Finance Act and requires political advertisements that use artificial intelligence to include a statement notifying consumers of the use of artificial intelligence.

House Bill 5144 and 5145 would make knowingly distributing media containing deceptive artificial intelligence with the intent of harming the campaign of a candidate in an election occurring within 90 days before an election without a disclaimer a crime varying from a misdemeanor to a five year felony.

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authored by Ken Coleman
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F11%2F30%2Fat-detroit-naacp-whitmer-signs-voting-rights-bills%2F

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