Michigan SOS: First-time voter law is null

LANSING (AP) — Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said a requirement that some first-time voters cast a ballot in person if they registered by mail or through a third-party drive is unenforceable in light of a 2018 voter-approved constitutional amendment that expanded options for absentee voters.

The Democrat disclosed her finding Wednesday while publicly announcing the resolution of a lawsuit filed against the state last year. She had notified local clerks of her determination earlier this year.

Democratic groups at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Northern Michigan University alleged that two laws were preventing students from voting in college towns and discouraging them from participating in elections.

One 1999 measure requiring that a voter’s registration match his or her driver’s license address will remain intact under the settlement. The first-time voter law enacted in 2004, however, was rendered moot by the ballot initiative, said Benson, who also announced steps her office will take to ensure that college-age voters can cast ballots.

Those include the creation of a website to explain proof-of-residency requirements, the one-address rule and how students can register at their college address or hometown address. Benson also will encourage local clerks in college towns to do their own registration drives.

Benson said the ballot measure, known as Proposal 3, lessened the burden on student voters because all voters can now vote absentee without giving a reason and they have access to a new same-day registration option.

“Going away to school shouldn’t complicate a student’s ability to vote,” Benson said in a written statement. “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.”