The progressive advocacy group Priorities USA has filed its third lawsuit in Michigan in roughly three weeks. The most recent lawsuit, filed in state court against Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, challenges two provisions in Michigan’s voting laws: restrictions on documents that demonstrate residency and restrictions on automatic registration for people younger than seventeen and a half.
Aneesa McMillan is the director of strategic communications for Priorities USA. She says that the organization has filed 18 lawsuits challenging what they view as onerous restrictions on voting rights, so far.
“There are tons of studies being done on a lot of the provisions that we challenge both in Michigan and outside of Michigan that show that there are things that deter voters and so for us, we just want anybody who is eligible to vote and wants to vote, we want to give them the ability to do so,” she says.
As for the most recent lawsuit, she says the restrictions on documents that show proof of residency and restrictions on automatic voter registration are especially burdensome on younger voters.
“Young people have just found it difficult to participate in the democratic process, so surely if we're able to find a cure to some of these issues that we're challenging, it will definitely have a positive impact on college students,” says McMillan.
State voting laws restrict the kind of documents someone can show to demonstrate residency. Prospective voters can register with a Michigan driver's license or a Michigan state identity card. They can also register with "any other form of identification for election purposes" and "an additional document proving residency." The additional documents that prove residency have to have the prospective voter's name and place of residency, and can be a current utility bill or bank statement, a current paycheck, a government check, or an unspecified "other government document."
The lawsuit argues that many young voters, especially college students, don't have these kinds of documents readily available, like a first or second year college student living in a dorm. They also don't have access to reliable transportation to obtain these documents. It says, “Young voters in Michigan will face unequal and consequential barriers in registering to vote and may even be denied the right to vote entirely for reasons having nothing to do with their qualification to participate in Michigan elections.”
The Secretary of State’s office declined our request for comment on the pending litigation.