Michigan CEOs speak out against voter restrictions

By Allison Donahue, Michigan Advance

Dozens of Michigan company leaders spoke up Tuesday against a voter restriction package that was introduced by Republicans in the Legislature last month. 

Thirty-seven CEOS and leaders of some of Michigan’s top employers, including Ford, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and General Motors, signed on to a joint statement, laying out a number of voting rights principles. 

“We represent Michigan’s largest companies, many of which operate on a national basis. We feel a responsibility to add our voice as changes are proposed to voting laws in Michigan and other states,” the business leaders wrote. 

The principles include:

  • The right to vote is a sacred, inviolable right of American citizens. 
  • Our democracy is strongest when we have the greatest level of participation by our citizens in a representative government. 
  • We are committed to encouraging our team members to exercise their right to vote and provide accommodations to do so. 
  • Safe and secure options to vote are vital to ensuring voter participation. 
  • Government must support equitable access to the ballot to ensure that all eligible voters can exercise their rights. 
  • Government must avoid actions that reduce participation in elections – particularly among historically disenfranchised communities, persons with disabilities, older adults, racial minorities and low-income voters. 
  • Government has a responsibility to continuously improve and strengthen election administration, because public faith in the security and integrity of our elections is fundamental. 
  • Election laws must be developed in a bipartisan fashion to preserve public confidence in our elections and to preserve the values of democracy. 

“Our nation is strongest when we stand together. We call on our elected officials to adopt these principles as they proceed in the spirit of inclusion and equality,” the CEOs wrote.

State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) said the statement from business leaders is a “positive step.”

“Speaking out against policies that prevent fair and equal access to voting should be a no-brainer. I would also encourage these companies to put their money where their mouth is and cease donating to elected officials who support this legislation,” Pohutsky tweeted.

This statement follows a movement among Republican lawmakers in 45 states who have introduced hundreds of bills that would implement stricter voting laws. 

In Michigan, Republicans have introduced 39 bills to change how voting is done in the state, which they say is a “comprehensive election reform” package.

Among many things, the package would ban unsolicited mass mailing of absentee ballot applications, prohibit pre-paid postage on absentee ballot envelopes for absentee ballots, require a photo ID, curb the hours people could drop off their ballots in boxes and require video surveillance of such drop boxes.

In 2018, voters approved a constitutional amendment, Proposal 3, to expand voting rights in Michigan by including no-reason absentee ballots, same-day voter registration and straight-ticket voting.

The proposal was passed by two-thirds of Michigan voters. 

The Republicans’ package will likely not make it past Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk, as she has promised to veto any bills that restrict voting rights.

But Republicans in Michigan may be able to take the same route that expanded voting rights just a few years earlier through a voter initiative that would parallel the GOP bill package. 

Rescue Michigan Coalition, a self-described conservative group, is discussing a ballot drive to avoid Whitmer’s ability to veto. 

“The only way to pass legislation against the will of a dictatorial governor is with a veto-proof Citizen-Initiated Law,” Rescue Michigan wrote on their website. 

Democrats are also considering a ballot initiative of their own to counteract the voting restrictions. 

Some of the Republican bills are expected to be taken up in the Senate Elections Committee for consideration Wednesday.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: [email protected]. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.