- In Michigan, currently there are three times as many bills that have been introduced to restrict voting rights as were introduced at this time last year.
Nearly 30 states, including my home state of Michigan, enacted legislation to strengthen our democracy prior to the Nov. 3, 2020 election. This included policy to expand mail-in voting options, keep polling places open and accessible during early voting, strengthen poll worker recruitment efforts and increase time to process mail in ballots. However, many of these improvements to our election processes were temporary.
After the election, there were unsubstantiated allegations of fraud. Disinformation was widespread. All eyes were on Michigan: we were at the center of these issues around voting, voting rights, and election outcomes. Fortunately, Michigan’s election results were certified by our State Board of Canvassers on Nov. 23, 2020. And all 110 state representatives elected or reelected to the Michigan House of Representatives began serving in January 2021, per the will of Michigan voters.
I am now in the second month of my second term as state representative for Troy and Clawson. Even before I became a state representative, I believed that a free and fair election is one where every vote counts. As a history buff, I knew that mail-in ballots were a big deal during the Civil War. As a naturalized citizen, I cherish my ability to vote and participate in our democracy. As a mother, I took my kids to the polls with me when they were young, so that they would understand how much I valued the right to exercise my vote. I still get a sticker every time!
Ensuring every eligible voter can cast their vote is the bedrock of our democracy. It is critical that we must do everything we can to make voting easier and safer for our citizens while providing our election administrators with the tools they need to make that happen.
In December of 2020, I introduced a package of bills with my colleagues to improve transparency and access to voting in Michigan elections. This Vote at Home legislative package would have made it easier for Michigan voters to receive and return absentee ballots, help local clerks strengthen the absentee voting process and hold circulators accountable for lying about the contents of petitions. I had worked with a couple of partner organizations — Future Now and the National Vote at Home Institute — and stakeholders across the state ranging from ACLU to the Michigan Secretary of State’s office. But these bills were not taken up and expired with that session.
This week, I reintroduced this bill package — HB 4360, 4361 and 4362 — with my state legislative colleagues, Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek) and Kara Hope (D-Holt). We are not alone. State lawmakers like us from across the country have already introduced hundreds of bills aimed at election procedures and voter access. But potential state legislation is pulling us in opposite directions — currently there are three times as many bills that have been introduced at the state level to restrict voting rights as were introduced at this time last year.
But there is good news: there is a renewed interest at the federal level to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. Alongside state representatives like Hope, Haadsma and myself, members of Congress want to support an energized electorate with democracy reforms. Since we saw historic turnout and increased mail voting in 2020, we can and should support absentee voting reform, and provide local clerks and election workers with what they need to improve the processing of mail-in ballots. Michigan voters passed no-reason absentee voting in 2018 and a record 3.3 million ballots were mailed in during the 2020 election. It is abundantly clear that safe and secure voting is a priority for Michiganders.
In reaction to 2020, four states have proposed legislation that would modify how presidential electors are allocated, and 11 states have introduced bills to adopt the national popular vote compact. In addition to introducing legislation, I’ve been reading about further policy reforms that we could implement provided by the Brennan Center for Justice, an independent, nonpartisan law and policy organization that “works to reform, revitalize, and when necessary, defend our country’s systems of democracy and justice.” I also signed up to work the elections in 2021, since I am not on the ballot this year. And you can find out how to do so too at the Election Assistance Commission — each state has its own rules.
Keeping our elections fair and safe, advancing policies that put voters and election workers first, and promoting solutions so every vote counts, is of paramount importance. I will continue this fight, and I hope you will join me.
Padma Kuppa is Democratic State Representative for Michigan’s 41st House District and has been just re-elected for a second term. A mother, an engineer from NIT Warangal, and an automotive and IT professional for over 2 decades, and a civic and interfaith leader for years, she is the first Indian immigrant and Hindu in the Michigan state legislature. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more at ElectPadmaKuppa.com or Kuppa.housedems.com.