Secretary Benson announces steps to promote college-age voter participation, initiatives to resolve lawsuit

Election NewsJUNE 5, 2019

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today announced steps to promote participation among college-age voters. The steps are part of a broader voter engagement initiative and will help bring a mutually agreeable resolution to a lawsuit brought on behalf of student voting groups last year.

“Going away to school shouldn’t complicate a student’s ability to vote,” Benson said. “Michigan has made great strides recently in improving access for all voters, and this is just the beginning of our work to ensure college-age voters have the information and opportunities they need to vote as engaged citizens.”

“Young voters are the future of our state and our democracy, and we need their voices at the table,” Benson said. “I’m committed to removing barriers and also encouraging college-age voter participation with several additional initiatives that we will be announcing in the months and years ahead.”

The Department of State and Bureau of Elections will be rolling out a broad voter engagement initiative prior to the 2020 election. The initial steps announced today are focused on student and college-age voters and include:

  • Creating a website dedicated to providing voting information and tools for college students and first-time voters and promoting the resource on social media.
  • Encouraging local clerks in communities with colleges and universities to engage in student outreach through voter registration drives and other activities.
  • Updating department manuals and training materials to reflect a new emphasis on college student voters.
  • Sending letters each September to the Michigan Association of State Universities and non-member colleges and universities with helpful information for students.
  • Deploying the Secretary of State’s Mobile Office, as in past years but with greater frequency, to provide opportunities for voter registration on college and university campuses and encouraging friendly competition among institutions related to voter registration efforts.

These steps help resolve a lawsuit filed by College Democrats at the University of Michigan and other student organizations. The groups filed a lawsuit against the previous secretary of state in August 2018, challenging the requirement that a Michigan voter with a Michigan driver’s license have the same address for both registration and licensing, and another requirement that first-time voters must vote in person if they registered through the mail or a third party registration drive.

After the lawsuit was filed, Michigan voters adopted Proposal 3 in 2018. Among other changes, the proposal guaranteed all registered Michigan voters the right to vote absentee without giving a reason. Earlier this year, the secretary of state determined that the “must vote in person” requirement is no longer enforceable under the constitutional amendment. This change, in addition to other new voting options such as same-day registration, lessen the burden on student voters. The secretary of state will be emphasizing these new options as part of her efforts to promote student voting engagement.

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