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Who wants to make absentee voting easier in Michigan?

The effort to allow any Michigan voter to request an absentee ballot may be close to critical mass in the state Senate. That’s as more Republicans are accepting the idea that anyone who wants to mail in or drop off their ballot should be allowed to without having to lie to do it.

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The rule right now in Michigan is that, unless you’re a senior citizen, physically handicapped or expect to be out of town on Election Day, you’re expected to show up at the polls on Election Day.

So, right now, people who want to vote absentee but don’t fit into one of those categories are just lying.

“We are talking about a small change to encourage people, not to have to lie, whether or not they’ll be in town. I think it just encourages people to get out there,” Republican state Senator Wayne Schmidt told It’s Just Politics. Schmidt is sponsoring a bill to allow no-reason absentee voting in Michigan.

Eleven Republicans and seven Democrats in the state Senate (that’s almost a majority in that chamber) have co-sponsored bills to allow no-reason absentee voting. But, this is not a done deal.

That’s because there is a Republican version and a Democratic version of the legislation - representing the classic divide between Rs and Ds when it comes to making voting easier.

Democrats are focused on access: making it easier for more people to vote. Republicans tend to focus more on security, and ensuring that only people who are supposed to vote get to.

The Republican plan would continue to require people to show up at their clerk’s office and show an ID to get an absentee ballot. Democrats, on the other hand, would let any registered voter request an absentee ballot by mail. No trip to the clerk’s office to show your ID. That bill is being sponsored by state Senator Steve Bieda.

“You’re a US citizen. You have a right to vote just by submitting this affidavit. It goes to your legal address, and you have an opportunity and a right to vote from the convenience of your home,” Bieda told It’s Just Politics.

So, no deal yet. And we have yet to see the Republican leadership in the state Senate or the state House sign on.  

Meantime, we should point out that Michigan is becoming more and more of an outlier on this. Twenty-seven states allow no-reason absentee voting and three states actually mail a ballot to every registered voter. Whether they ask for one or not.

We’ll see if the Michigan Legislature can resolve this... so we can start arguing about voting on the Internet.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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