Lawmakers close out year with election reforms like 16 and 17 year old voting pre-registration

(Photo by Rudi Keller|States Newsroom)

By Kyle Davidson, Michigan Advance

As lawmakers prepare to adjourn for the year, a number of election law reforms are awaiting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature. 

The state House concurred Wednesday with the Senate on House Bill 4569, sponsored by state Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City). Both bodies are controlled by Democrats. The bill allows 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote once they are eligible at 18. Democrats have championed similar legislation for years that failed to gain traction in GOP-led legislatures.

“Allowing young people to pre-register to vote — particularly while they’re learning about civics and the democratic process in school — will undoubtedly increase participation in our elections by ensuring when they are legally eligible to vote at 18, they will be all set to become a lifelong voter,” Coffia said in a statement released after the vote on the bill. 

“Michigan will join a growing list of states that allow voter pre-registration, and I’m proud to see it move to the governor’s desk,” Coffia said. 

Alongside expanding pre-registration for voters, lawmakers also voted to strengthen and clarify the state’s policies on automatic voter registration, with the House concurring with the Senate on House Bills 49834986.

Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 529, bringing the state into alignment with the federal Electoral Count Reform Act and clarifying the certification process for presidential electors. 

The Legislature also voted to advance Senate Bills 590 and 591, establishing a procedure for presidential candidates seeking judicial review of election results, as well as clarifying who may contest the outcome of an election, seeking to prevent frivolous lawsuits. 

Secure Democracy USA, a nonpartisan organization advocating for voter access and working to build confidence in elections, issued a statement urging Whitmer to sign these policies into law.

The organization also applauded Whitmer for signing a package implementing measures approved by voters in the 2022 election, including in-person early voting, allowing voters to verify their identity with a photo ID or signed affidavit and other reforms. It also highlighted the elimination of a ban on hiring transportation to take voters to the polls. 

“Michigan voters were the clear winners as common sense election policy was prioritized in the 2023 legislative session. Michigan is now a leader in strengthening voter access, building confidence in elections, and ensuring secure election administration,” said Diego Echeverri, director of advocacy for Secure Democracy USA. 

“A productive 2023 legislative session that prioritized voters and nonpartisan election administration means Michigan voters will have more access and transparency – and Michigan administrators will have more support – in 2024 and beyond,” Echeverri said.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus 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.