Michigan Voting Rights Act Bill Package Receives Hearing

Posted on May 2, 2024 by Dave Hodgkins

The Senate Elections and Ethics Committee heard presentations by supporters of the Michigan Voting Rights Act bill package (SBs 401-404) yesterday afternoon. SB 401 would prohibit a local government from imposing any law, practice, policy, or method of election that led to a disparity in voter participation between members of a protected class. Other bills create a data institute that will work with a state university to collect information on Michigan elections deemed necessary by the Secretary of State (SB 402), as well as addressing language assistance (SB 403) and curbside voting (SB 404).

The general intent of how these bills are summarized is something the League could support. However, the actual details of the proposed policy raise several concerns. SB 401 in particular opens local governments up to increasing risk and liability for alleged impairments of an elector’s rights, even for situations outside of a municipality’s control. The bill lists out what constitutes a perceived impairment by a plaintiff, while at the same time handcuffs local governments by excluding information that can be utilized as evidence in its defense.

For almost a year, we have worked with other local government and clerks organizations, the bill sponsors, and the Secretary of State on ways to improve the legislation. Alternative language adopted in committee yesterday is better than the original bills, which is a testament to the feedback provided by many of our members.  With the updated language, we believe it could be appropriate to take a position of neutral on SBs 402, 403, and 404 were they not tie-barred to SB 401. A tie-bar means there is language in the bills stating one can’t become law unless the others do as well.

Because of this, the League will be opposing the entire bill package based on member feedback.

Sen. Jeremy Moss, chair of Senate Elections and Ethics Committee, has indicated there will be several weeks of testimony. No timeline has been provided for a committee vote at this time. We will keep you apprised of further action.


Dave Hodgkins is a legislative associate with the League. He may be reached at [email protected]


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