Committee testimony begins for Michigan Voting Rights Act bills

The bills would echo the federal Voting Rights Act to protect minority groups from being disenfranchised.

Michigan State Capitol building.

Michigan State Capitol building.

Committee testimony on Michigan bills to create a State Voting Rights Act is expected to continue this week. That’s after the state Senate Elections and Ethics Committee ran out of time to hear from stakeholders during a meeting last week.

The bills would echo the federal Voting Rights Act to protect minority groups from being disenfranchised. 

Senate Elections and Ethics Committee Chair Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) said the package is forward-looking, in case federal protections get rolled back.

“This is taking a lesson from our history and applying it to our present on making sure that from here until the future that people are protected in their right to participate in our democracy fully,” Moss said.

But Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Waucedah Twp) said he doesn’t believe the proposals would address core issues, like people being unaware or misinformed about elections.

“A lot of these are non-issues, solutions in search of problems, that are only problems either in people’s minds or in the fact that there’s been a lack of education,” McBroom said.

Aside from voting protections for minority groups, the bills would require curbside voting as an option for older or disabled residents, and require jurisdictions that meet certain conditions to provide translation services.

McBroom said he has serious doubts about offering translation services at the polls, noting citizenship often requires some proficiency in English.

Beyond that, he said he worried about the broader stresses new requirements would have on the election system.

“The problem is, that all of this burden is being placed on our local clerks. And that’s where I’ll have to come out and say that’s too much to do to these people,” McBroom said.

Yet supporters argue the bills have wide support from advocates for expanding access to elections.

Each piece of the legislation, which was introduced in June 2023, was subbed out for a new version of the bills during Wednesday’s committee hearing. Moss said lawmakers have been working for months to get the bills to the hearing stage.

“We’re ready to showcase our work product that will protect voters, their access to the ballot, and make sure that from language to mobility, there are no factors that will prohibit them from participating in our democracy,” Moss said.

He said he expects to see the bills remain in committee for more hearings through the month of May.

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