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Michigan Freedom Fund: Protect the Vote

By Melissa Anders 

When it comes to changing the way Michigan runs elections, Tony Daunt takes a cautious stance.   

Daunt is the executive director of Michigan Freedom Fund, a conservative nonprofit that seeks to protect constitutional rights. The group continues to fight Proposal 2, the ballot initiative passed in 2018 that gives a 13-member citizen commission the power to draw election district boundaries instead of state lawmakers. He says it’s “fundamentally unfair” to prohibit people from serving on the commission if they or their immediate family member has served in certain political roles in the last six years.   

He’s also skeptical of other ideas or efforts to adjust election processes, such as open primaries, ranked-choice voting, same-day voter registration, and no-excuse absentee voting.   

“We should be very careful [about] making rash or quick changes, or any changes at all to how we handle our elections because of the potential for unintended consequences, and having some deference for the system as it is set up that has served us well,” he says.   

Michigan currently does not allow nonpartisan open primaries, and Daunt fears changing that would weaken democracy and sensible governance. Primary elections and choosing the standard-bearer for a political party is best left to the party, he says.   

“I think that’s a modern conceit of people these days that they know better than the founders,” Daunt says. “Although the people behind them may have good intentions, their good intentions are certainly no predictor of good results and may end up making things worse.”   

He acknowledges there are ways the government can operate more efficiently. But when it comes to elections, Daunt’s top priorities are protecting the integrity and security of the vote, through means such as requiring photo identification and allowing witnesses at polling locations to monitor absentee counts and how the voting and tallying is going.   

For now, Michigan Freedom Fund is focused on monitoring recent changes to the state’s election system, including Proposal 2 as well as Proposal 3, which allows straight-ticket voting, same-day voter registration, and no-reason absentee voting, among other changes. Daunt argues that same-day registration can make it easier for voter fraud. He’s also keeping an eye on the secretary of state and urges the office to be upfront with how it’s implementing the new election district commission.   

“We want to make sure that when these changes do take place that they’re done fairly and transparently,” he says.  • 

Melissa Anders is a metro Detroit native and freelance writer.