Organizers of the Promote the Vote constitutional amendment include the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the League of Women Voters and the NAACP's state and Detroit branches.
"Democracy is most effective when the most possible people participate," ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss said during a news conference outside the state elections bureau. "It is time that we had voting reforms in the state because people have died to win and exercise their right to vote. Voting should be easier, it should be accessible and it should be something that everybody can do."
Absentee voters currently must be at least 60 years old, be out of town when the polls are open or be unable to vote on Election Day due to a physical disability, religious tenets or incarceration. The proposed constitutional amendment would let people vote absentee without giving a reason.
It also would allow citizens to register by mail closer to Election Day and in person at any time, including on Election Day. The measure would automatically register people when they conduct business with the secretary of state regarding a driver's license or state ID card, unless they decline to be registered. People now must register at least 30 days before an election.
Other provisions would guarantee election audits and reinstate straight-ticket voting, which Republican lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder banned in 2016 but has continued during a pending legal challenge .
Promote the Vote needs about 316,000 valid voter signatures for its amendment to appear on the November statewide ballot.
The Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the NAACP's Detroit branch, said voting should not be a partisan issue, nor should Michigan lag other states when it comes to access to the polls.
In 37 states, any qualified voter may vote in person during a designated period prior to Election Day without needing an excuse or justification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures .
"We want everybody to vote," Anthony said. "This is not just for us. We are promoting the vote for everybody in the state of Michigan."
The proposal drew criticism in some quarters, however.
Republican secretary of state candidate Mary Treder Lang said many provisions already are in state law. She called the measure a "partisan power grab by out-of-state liberal donors that would make Michigan elections more vulnerable to fraud."
The state already has a high voter-registration rate. She said same-day registration and a shorter period between the registration deadline and Election Day would not give the secretary of state and local clerks enough time to detect suspicious activity or potential cyberattacks.
As of late April, when Promote the Vote's last campaign finance report was filed, the ballot committee had received at least $1 million of its $1.2 million in donations from the ACLU. About $721,00 had been spent to collect signatures.