Jan 30, 2011

Senate Democrats go back to work to increase voter turnout

State Sen. Steven Bieda, D-Warren, is on a mission to ensure voting is easier and more convenient for Michigan residents.

On January 20 he introduced Senate Bill 49 that will allow no reason absentee voting. The Democratically-controlled House approved House Bill 4367 by a vote of 79-30 with 12 Republicans joining the entire Democratic caucus in approving the bill last session, but like the previous session, it died because the Republican-controlled Senate refused to take it up.

Under current Michigan law, there are only six reasons for A/B voting: age 60 years old or older, unable to vote without assistance at the polls, expecting to be out of town on election day, in jail awaiting arraignment or trial, unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons or are appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence. If SB 49 becomes law, Michigan will join 28 other states that allow no reason A/B voting.

On Jan. 26, Bieda introduced SB 76 that would require the Michigan Secretary of State to develop a website which would allow electronic voter registration. Voters would also be able to update their registration records online.

“The intent of this legislation is to make it easier for Michigan residents to register to vote,” Bieda said. “Why should a person who moves be required to submit a written change of address? Numerous states run a secure online registration program without problems.”

Both bills were referred to the Senate Committee on Local Government and Elections were they are awaiting action.

Bieda has a history of working on election reform and trying to increase voter turnout and make democracy easier. There sessions ago when he was in the House, he sponsored House Bill 5792 that would allow 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote when they get their first driver’s license. The bill was approved on May 8, 2008 with a bipartisan vote of 88-18, but it died because the Senate refused to take it up. A similiar bill, HB 4261, was also approved with an even larger bipartisan vote of 92-19 in May 2009, but the Senate also refused to take it up.

These bills had the support of the Republican Michigan Secretary of State, The Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks, The Michigan Association of County Clerks, the Michigan Municipal League and The League of Women Voters.

“I think we need to do whatever it takes to encourage voters to get to the polls and ensure their voice in government is heard,” Bieda said. “This is a no-brainer, and something that would ease the burden of registering to vote.”

Senate Republicans have a history of blocking voter reform, despite widespread support. That’s one reason they continue to keep a majority in the Senate.

It’s ironic that they block every attempt to make voting easier, yet they want to make it easier to get and carry a handgun.

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