There has been much discussion over what we can do to affect change for the next election. It's time for Michigan to join the majority of the other states in making changes to the way we vote. Specifically, I am calling for the following changes:
* Early voting
* No excuse absentee voting
* Permanent absentee voters
* Making election day a state holiday
* 16 states have no provisions for early voting, including Michigan.
* 2 states have an all-mail voting system
The benefits of having early voting are numerous, and not popular from the Republican party. But to win them over, we should be pushing this point by arguing that this will actually help prevent voter fraud. By allowing people to vote early (I suggest 14 days), we have more time to investigate questionable activity. And it frees resources on the day of the election and the days after. It's about streamlining the election process.
No excuse absentee voting
* 29 states currently allow for no-excuse absentee voting. Michigan is not one of them. There is no excuse for not having no excuse absentee voting.
In Michigan (http://www.michigan.gov/...):
As a registered voter, you may obtain an absentee voter ballot if you are:
* 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
* appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence.
By having a no-excuse absentee policy, we eliminate the additional and costly checks and confusion that these requirements entail. It will allow Michigan to focus more on making sure that people able to vote can. If you are a registered voter, you get a ballot in the mail (if you wish). It's so simple.
Permanent absentee voters
Once you vote absentee, we should be working to implement a system in which voters are automatically mailed an absentee ballot for the next election. As in California, this continues so long as you vote. We can go further and when you change addresses, the election system is updated so that you are automatically registered at your new address.
This will remove a major hurdle for getting access to the ballot box on election day. We can save our state's resources that are allocated for registering new voters by allowing them to focus on new voters that need to register. Once you've registered to vote, there is no reason to have to jump through those hurdles again and again.
Making election day a state holiday
Before everyone gets all worked up about yet another state holiday, I would offset it with Columbus Day. If we observe Columbus Day on Election Day in even numbered years, there is no cost to the state, and everyone has the benefit of being able to vote without the fear of losing a job or using up sick time or vacation time.
Now, given the events in Michigan this week, with voter anger over the content and manner in which these bills were passed, I am certain that no Republican-led chamber is going to want to give voters even more access to the polls. But that is no reason to not start now. We need to be pushing now for a comprehensive set of laws that encourage more people to vote, to lower the barriers to allowing legitimate voters to cast their decision. We make it an issue now, and make it an election year issue in 2014. To be against these changes is indefensible, but only if we make it so.