According to data released following the 2020 general election, more than 5 million Michigan ballots were cast in last November’s election; a 14% increase in votes cast in the November 2016 election. Overall, a total of 71% of Michigan adults ages 18 and older participated in the 2020 presidential election with more than half of postal votes.
The American public knows that is a good thing. Greater participation is after all what we claim to want for democracy. But as the entire nation watches Georgia’s new election law go into effect and we follow the current set of proposals to change our own state’s election laws from Republicans in the Michigan Senate, it becomes increasingly evident that greater participation in our democratic process is the exact contrary to what many elected officials seek to achieve.
Some of the most striking changes to voting as written in the new Georgia law include voters having less time to request mail-in ballots; strict new identification requirements for absentee ballots; make it illegal for election officials to mail absentee ballot applications to all voters; limiting the number of ballot box locations; and people who run the risk of being charged with a misdemeanor for providing food or water to voters queuing to vote.
After:Michigan GOP senators introduce 39 electoral reform bills that Democrats call racist, based on lies
After:Michigan completes most comprehensive post-election audit in state history: What it showed
Here in Michigan, the proposed bundle of bills would significantly hamper the process of making voting inclusive, convenient, and easily accessible. The package would severely restrict the constitutional right to vote by mail, a right enshrined in the Michigan Constitution and used by millions of Michiganders each year. The package would erect barriers for busy voters looking to return their ballot to a convenient and secure ballot box in their community. The package would prohibit local communities from providing prepaid postage on mail-in ballots. The package would prohibit the Michigan Department of State from mailing absentee ballot applications to all registered voters and even prohibit the Department from providing the application on its website.
This is clearly voter suppression intended to interfere with and undermine the freedom of every registered voter in our state. Our democracy is under attack and we must fight, together.
In Georgia, business leaders are joining the fight to protect voting rights and prevent what happened there from happening across the country. Texas-based businesses are also stepping in, opposing pending legislation that imposes barriers and reduces access to voting and expressing support for a more inclusive democratic process.
We call on business leaders here in Michigan to step up their efforts. We applaud our state’s business leaders who recently signed a joint statement in support of fair voting rights, but we encourage even more action – corporations must stop funding people in office who want pursue these bills. Ceasing political donations to candidates and state-level committees planning these ballot initiatives will permanently strengthen our corporate community’s position on suffrage and prevent voter suppression legislation from being passed.
Businesses need to take a stand. We know that when the business community gets involved, its voice heralds policy changes. Either you want more people to vote or you want to suppress the vote. It’s that simple.
As a racial justice organization that focuses directly on issues of equity, the right to vote remains a central part of what we at New Detroit, Inc. work to protect and support for everyone, in especially for black people and communities of color who have had their political power. systematically repressed throughout our country and in the history of our state.
This is a direct attack on the guarantee of fair participation for all voters and it will have a significant impact on the democratic process for years to come if we do not prevent the enactment of this legislation.
Our nation thrives when more diverse voices engage in decision making, problem solving, solution design and community building. If we really want to be great, inclusiveness is key. We encourage everyone to get involved in the opportunities to take action by signing up to Promote the Vote, a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to increasing people power in our democracy by working to ensure that all Michiganders have fair access.
Democracy only works when everyone can participate in the process.
Michael S. Rafferty is the President and CEO of New Detroit, Inc., a private nonprofit racial justice organization that focuses on racial understanding and racial equity in the Detroit metro area.