Our Most Fundamental Right
Our Most Fundamental Right: The Right to Vote There are many issues that are near and dear to the hearts of Democrats: climate change, health care, reproductive rights, sensible gun laws, affordable housing, economic equality, education, and the list goes on and on. Our ability to make changes related to these or any issue is contingent on one fundamental right, the right to vote. The last decade has ushered in major attacks on voting rights. Efforts to rollback voter rights started gaining momentum in 2011. That year saw a record number of state legislatures passing voting restrictions including photo ID requirements, cuts to early voting, and restrictions to voter registration. On June 25, 2013, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court eradicated Section 5 of the VRA which required federal approval for changes to election laws in jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination. Michigan legislators have been hard at work to bring the will of the people to fruition. Currently, residents in the state are automatically registered to vote when they obtain, update, or renew their driver’s license or state ID. The Michigan Legislature passed a bill in November that expands the automatic voter registration system to include individuals eligible for voter registration who applied for Medicaid coverage, were recently released from incarceration, or are a member of a recognized Indian Tribe. The Institute for Responsive Government estimates that 383,000 more individuals may be eligible to vote as a result of this legislation. Additionally, House Bill 4569 will allow 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote once they turn 18. After the 2020 Presidential election, election officials in Michigan were intimidated and harassed by those unhappy with the election outcome. House Bill 4129 and Senate Bill 505 protect election workers by increasing criminal penalties for those who intimidate election officials. Michigan Governer Whitmer signed these bills into law on November 30, 2023. Since the birth of our democracy Americans have been fighting for our right to vote. This fight must never stop. All our other rights depend on this most fundamental right.You can continue this fight by: Staying informed : Keep an eye on what is happening in our state and our nation regarding voting rights. You can keep up to date via the Michigan Voting Rights Lab: https://tracker.votingrightslab.org/states/michigan Let your representatives know where you stand: The American Association of University Women (AAUW) have made it easy to urge our elected representatives to support the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act: https://www.aauw.org/act/two-minute-activist/voting-rights/ Get involved : The Mecosta County Democratic Party has identified voter rights as a top priority. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Volunteer : Voters Not Politicians needs volunteers and has a number of volunteer positions. The Dial for Democracy program is one of the easiest ways to volunteer. Volunteers receive text alerts to contact legislators regarding decisions affecting Michigan’s democracy. There is no specific time commitment: https://votersnotpoliticians.com/volunteer/ Vote : The reason the right to vote is so crucial is because it is our greatest weapon in the fight for all of our rights. Never take it for granted. On December 1, 2023, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson took an important step for voting rights. With Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II out of state, the Secretary of State signed HB 4570 into law. In 2020, Benson provided a link to the absentee ballot application on the Michigan Secretary of State website. At the time there was neither a law permitting or prohibiting her action. Now there is a law protecting the link’s existence. Transportation and accessibility barriers have long prohibited many people from voting. This new law makes voting accessible for all Michigan voters. Jocelyn Benson is slated to be this year’s keynote speaker at MCDP’s Woodbridge N. Ferris Dinner on May 4, 2024. Sources: https://www.mlive.com/politics/2023/09/early-voting-no-reason-absentee-is-illegal-11-michigan-republican-contend.html https://www.aclu.org/voting-rights-act-major-dates-history https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/7-years-gutting-voting-rights https://campaignlegal.org/press-releases/michigan-voting-rights-act-introduced-latest-wave-state-vras https://www.democracydocket.com/news-alerts/michigan-legislature-passes-bill-expanding-automatic-voter-registration-to-formerly-incarcerated-people/ https://michiganadvance.com/2023/11/14/lawmakers-close-out-year-with-election-reforms-like-16-and-17-year-old-voting-pre-registration/ https://michiganadvance.com/blog/as-acting-governor-benson-signs-bill-codifying-online-absentee-ballot-requests/ https://www.michigan.gov/whitmer/news/press-releases/2023/11/30/whitmer-signs-election-bills-to-ensure-every-vote-can-be-cast-and-counted#:~:text=%E2%80%93%20Today%2C%20Governor%20Gretchen%20Whitmer%20signed,access%20to%20the%20ballot%20box .