Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill ushering in a new era of expanded voting rights for former prisoners.
The bill extends Michigan’s automatic voter registration system, currently applicable when individuals obtain a driver’s license, to other state agencies such as the Department of Corrections and the Department of Health and Human Services. Under the new law, inmates leaving prison will be issued a state identification or driver’s license from Michigan, automatically registering them to vote unless they opt-out.
“Being engaged members of their communities, including voting, is an important element of reentry for all returning citizens,” Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Kyle Kaminski said.
Previously, incarcerated individuals could submit their personal information to the Department of State, which would then finalize their voter registration upon release. The new law streamlines the process, with the Department of State automatically processing voter registration.
State Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou, the bill’s author, underscored the positive impact on those leaving prison, emphasizing the significance of being registered and encouraged to vote. The legislation received support from Democrats, passing in the House on a party-line vote and securing Senate approval.
The new law complements other efforts to increase voting rights access, including a larger package of 23 election and democracy bills signed by Whitmer. Detroit Pastor Terrence Devezin and former inmate and community worker Vince King lauded the law, recognizing its role in helping individuals reintegrate into society by providing identification and voting rights.
King highlighted the profound impact on political participation, allowing returning citizens to support candidates addressing crucial issues affecting their lives. The legislation removes barriers to civic engagement and fosters a sense of normalcy and belonging within communities.
“Today, we are expanding voting rights and strengthening our democracy,” Whitmer said.
Source: Black Enterprise