A seat at the table: How 313/616 Votes is making our democracy more accessible
Making sure our democracy is free, fair and accessible is a full-time job – a responsibility that can’t just happen in the years we have elections. In the face of serious and continued threats against the future of our democracy in Michigan, the responsibility to ensure every eligible Michigan voter knows how they can access the ballot has never been more important. Luckily, that’s where Michigan LCV Education Fund’s 313 and 616 Votes program is working to fill the gaps.
Without statewide elections in Michigan this year, the importance of voter education and engagement can get lost. We – as voters – can forget the importance of participating in our democracy or lose sight of what we need to know. But this does not mean our democracy stops working. Our democracy functions best when everyone can access the ballot and has a seat at the table, especially in non-election years.
Because participating in our democracy is so important, our 313 and 616 Votes program is engaging Michigan voters, helping people understand how our elections work, and ensuring everyone knows how they can access the ballot and make their voices heard. The 313 and 616 Votes program is the largest and only non-election year direct voter contact program in Michigan – no one else in the state is doing this work to the same scale.
Being a non-election year, the focus of this year’s program needed to shift from engaging voters to ensuring they are prepared to vote. Thanks to the passage of Proposal 2 in 2022, changes and expansions to voting rights and options are underway in Michigan. The issue? We can’t fully use these new rights if we don’t know we have them.
For decades, Black, Brown and Indigenous People have faced significant barriers when trying to access the ballot and exercise their right to vote, including gerrymandering, violence and intimidation. The 313/616 Votes program has a specific focus on engaging low-propensity voters in BIPOC and historically disenfranchised communities to ensure everyone has a seat at the table.
Instead of working to ensure Michigan voters are prepared and aware of upcoming statewide elections, this summer our team of dedicated advocates and canvassers are focused on educating voters about how Proposal 2’s changes will expand voting options and what it means for them and our elections. Our dedicated team of canvassers in both Southeast and West Michigan are plugging into farmer’s markets and community events to provide resources outlined Proposal 2’s changes, voting information and resources, helping people understand how to register to vote, explain voting options, and more to foster an inclusive democracy.
From expanded early voting, to expanded voter ID requirements, to being able to permanently register for an absentee ballot for all elections, Michigan voters now have more options and fewer barriers when it comes to accessing the ballot and exercising their right to vote.
As these historic expansions of voting rights are taking place, we are also seeing serious threats to the future of our democracy resurface. The primary example of this is the recent indictments of 16 Michiganders who fraudulently attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election by submitting fake electors in favor of Donald Trump despite Michigan voters resoundingly voting for President Joe Biden. These 16 individuals have been charged with felony counts of election fraud and other serious crimes by Attorney General Dana Nessel, but some who hold public office – most notably, Wyoming Mayor Kent Vanderwood – continue to avoid accountability.
Michigan voters deserve transparency and accountability from our elected officials, and should be able to trust that their votes will be counted. In the face of these threats to democracy, the 313 and 616 Votes program and voter education are essential in the fight to safeguard our right to vote. Despite bad actors who have lost sight of democracy’s value, we remain committed to making sure all Michigan voters can confidently, safely, and freely participate in our elections.