On heels of recent legislation to expand voters’ access, lawmakers now tackle voters’ rights, combat discrimination and disinformation  

LANSING, Mich. (June 22, 2023) — Today, the Michigan Senate Democratic Majority introduced legislation to establish the Michigan Voting Rights Act (MVRA), Senate Bills 401404. The four-bill package is sponsored by Sens. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton), Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) and Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and was developed with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. The MVRA will continue efforts to improve every aspect of elections, ensuring voters are physically and legally protected and accommodated throughout the process and local election officials comply with state law. 

“This historic legislation is desperately needed to help counter ongoing attacks on voting both nationally and right here in Michigan, and it will better protect Michigan voters from being impacted by the erosion of voting rights at the federal level,” said Sen. Camilleri. “Whether it’s a personal principle or a political strategy, it’s unfortunate that anyone would try to deceive, confuse, or suppress voters, and the Michigan Voting Rights Act we are creating will rightfully outlaw these practices.” 

The MVRA would build on the successful federal Voting Rights Act that has been in place for almost 60 years and add additional protections at the state level. The federal act provides protections for racial, ethnic and language minority groups who historically — and currently — endure barriers to the right to vote. However, over the past decade there has been an open, active and relentless assault on the federal Voting Rights Act and the protections at the federal level and in state houses across the country. While attacks to dismantle the federal act began almost as soon as the law became effective in 1965, the Shelby County v. Holder case in 2013, and others like it, continue to chip away voter protections that were and continued to be fought for.  

“Today is a big day for democracy in Michigan. I am proud to join lawmakers, stakeholders, advocates, and voters celebrating the introduction of the Michigan Voting Rights Act,” said Secretary of State Benson. “The MVRA represents a historic pledge to every Michigan citizen that their right to vote is sacred and will be protected. As democracy continues to endure the challenges of a multi-year effort to undermine it, this law will ensure that every citizen can have faith that their voice will be heard and their vote counted. I am grateful to the vision and leadership of Senator Camilleri and all of our partners who’ve worked to draft and introduce today’s bills and I look forward to seeing them become law in advance of next year’s presidential election cycle.” 

“These bills will bring Michigan to the forefront of making elections accessible for all,” said Sen. Geiss. “I am proud to stand with my colleagues in expanding access to our democracy. As forces around the country work to make it more difficult to vote and exclude people from their inalienable rights, Michigan is standing up to those ill-begotten forces to say to voters that your voice is heard and participation in our democracy matters.”

The Michigan Voting Rights Act will do four things: 

  1. Prohibit voter denial, dilution, and/or suppression. 
  2. Require and expand the jurisdictions that must translate election-related information into languages other than English, to ensure that language minority groups in our state have an equal opportunity to participate in the voting process.
  3. Enhance and clarify protections for voters with disabilities or who otherwise need assistance to vote.
  4. Prohibit intimidation, coercion, and deceptive practices of government and private actors with the intent or results in protected classes not participating in the election. The action can be before, during, or after the election.

“Michigan voters have made it very clear that they want to ensure access to our democracy, and the Michigan Voting Rights Act bill package will be another historic step forward to accomplish that goal,” said Sen. Chang. “One of Michigan’s greatest strengths is our growing diversity, which includes immigrants from all over the world who become naturalized citizens and choose to make Michigan their home. My bill will help our citizens, regardless of how well they can read or understand English, to be able to accurately cast their ballot by requiring more jurisdictions to provide reasonable language access in elections. Translating election materials and hiring more bilingual poll workers not only helps Michigan voters who are English Language Learners and creates a more welcoming community; it also boosts our entire democratic process and strengthens the integrity of our elections.”

“Every qualified Michigander must be able to express their constitutional right to vote, free from discrimination, intimidation and disinformation,” said Sen. Moss, chair of the Senate Elections and Ethics Committee. “Our job as lawmakers is to protect unimpeded access to the ballot box and ensure all voices can be included in the election process. As other states are putting up barriers to voting, Michigan is prepared to stand out as a model in our country that holds participation in the democratic process as sacred with the introduction of our Voting Rights Act.”