Michigan Voting Rights Act Introduced, Latest in a Wave of State VRAs


Lansing, MI – Last week, Michigan legislators introduced the Michigan Voting Rights Act (MIVRA). This landmark package of pro-voter reforms (Senate Bills 401, 402, 403 and 404) will strengthen the freedom to vote for Michiganders, including Black and brown voters who continue to face barriers to voting.  

Upon passing and enacting the MIVRA, Michigan would become the 7th state to adopt a state-level Voting Rights Act (state VRA) – which would take steps to protect Black and brown voters 10 years after the Supreme Court undercut the federal VRA in its Shelby County v. Holder decision. 

“Voting should be accessible for all citizens, no matter where they live, the color of their skin or how much money they make. Sadly, Black and brown Michiganders have faced significant barriers to exercising this freedom that persist to this day,” said Paul Smith, Senior Vice President of Campaign Legal Center. “The Michigan Voting Rights Act would help ensure that Black and brown voters in Michigan can make their voices heard on the issues that matter most to them and elect representatives who will fight for their communities. CLC looks forward to working with partners in Michigan to further refine the bill after the Michigan legislature’s summer recess, and to Michigan eventually joining the ranks of the states that have adopted state-level protections for voters.”  

Over the past few years, Michigan has taken impressive strides to expand the freedom to vote – but, like many states, some of Michigan’s counties and municipalities have a troubling history of racial discrimination in voting. Eastpointe, MI recently entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice over its at-large election system that denied Black voters the opportunity to have an equal voice in local elections. Additionally, non-English-speaking voters, including those among Michigan's sizeable Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) community, have historically lacked access to effective language assistance in local elections.   

The Michigan Voting Rights Act would: 

  • Protect voters from racially discriminatory voting policies, including election systems that cancel out or minimize the voting power of Black and brown voters, keeping them from electing their preferred candidates; 

  • Make it easier for voters experiencing discrimination to fight back in court; 

  • Expand protections for voters who don’t speak English as their primary language; 

  • Help localities identify discriminatory voting policies before they are enacted through a system of “preclearance,” in which certain local jurisdictions seek pre-approval of certain voting changes from the Secretary of State or a court; 

  • Add critical research and enforcement tools, such as a statewide database of demographics and voting rules