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Benson calls for enactment of Michigan Voting Rights Act to further the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and protect democracy

DETROIT, Mich. – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today announced the introduction of the Michigan Voting Rights Act to mirror and expand upon the federal Voting Rights Act, which has been weakened in recent years. The announcement was part of remarks presented by Secretary Benson at a ceremony celebrating the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at Hart Plaza in Detroit. This weekend is the 60th anniversary of the Detroit March to Freedom led by Dr. King and local leaders in 1963. The statue is a tribute to that historic event in American history. 
“We are in the midst of a multi-year, multi-faceted battle for the future of our democracy,” said Benson. “As we celebrate the anniversaries of this moment, we have to recognize that this weekend will also mark the 10th anniversary of a case out of the Supreme Court of the United States, Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – a significant blow to the hard-fought rights under the law. Rights fought for by those citizens all around the country and those who bled and faced tear gas on the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.”
Benson shared that the Michigan Voting Rights Act (MVRA) was introduced yesterday in the Michigan Senate. Senate Bills 401-404 were sponsored by Sens. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton), Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) and Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield). The MVRA would build on the federal Voting Rights Act while adding new protections at the state level.
Specifically, the MVRA will:

  • Prohibit voter denial, dilution, and/or suppression

  • Require and expand the jurisdictions that must translate election-related information into languages other than English to ensure that language minority groups in our state have an equal opportunity to participate in the voting process

  • Enhance and clarify protections for voters with disabilities or who otherwise need assistance to vote

  • Prohibit intimidation, coercion, and deceptive practices of government and private actors with the intent or results in protected classes not participating in the election. The action can be before, during, or after the election.

“I’m proud that in a time when, nationally, the Voting Rights Act is diminishing in power, here in Michigan we’re going to stand up and take the lead,” said Benson. “The Michigan Voting Rights Act will restore and strengthen the rights that have been undermined and will enable us to protect every voice and every vote in the future.”

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