Voter suppression law passes Michigan House, fight moves to Senate

poll_tax_sign

Remember how I was telling you last week that you really needed to call your State Reps because Republicans were trying to push aggressive, new voter suppression laws through the Michigan House? Well, last night, at 10:00 PM, the Michigan House of Representatives voted 57-50 to approve the bills [HB 6066, HB 6067, HB 6068]. Furthermore, being the throughly devious and completely anti-democratic far-right operatives that they are, our elected representatives in the House included an $11 million appropriation, which effectively makes the legislation immune from a voter referendum or repeal. So, even if an overwhelming majority of Michigan voters decided to stand up and come out against these most recent voter suppression efforts, they would still stay on the books… assuming, of course, they now pass the Senate, and get signed into law by our “tough nerd” of a Governor. Given what we’ve seen thus far this lame duck session, though, I have little doubt that this will happen. While we were apparently able to flip 5 Republicans in the House, getting them to vote against HB 6066, I suspect our odds of stopping this in the Michigan Senate, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 27 to 11, is even more remote.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-8-39-07-pmSpeaking of the Michigan House and Senate being under Republican rule, it’s also interesting to note that this, in very large part, is due to gerrymandering, which, like voter suppression, is intended to give conservatives an electoral edge in spite of their dwindling support. For instance, more Michiganders voted for Democrats in House races during the last election, but more Republicans won. That’s because Republicans have redrawn the boundaries in order to lump Democrats together into single districts, allowing Republicans to keep majorities in the surrounding areas. Here, to the right, to give you a sense of what we’re up against us, is a map of Michigan’s 14th district, which stretches from eastern Detroit west to Farmington Hills and north to the suburbs of Auburn Hills. [Look for more on gerrymandering, and what we can do to fight it, in an upcoming post.]

But let’s get back to voter suppression, which is what HB 6066 is… Here, if you’re unfamiliar with the law, is an overview.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law by the Governor, HB 6066 would require that people obtain photo identification before being allowed to vote in Michigan. [The current system allows for people to sign an affidavit attesting to the fact that they are who they claim to be.] The other two bills would make state ID and birth records available for free in Michigan. This, I’m told, is being done not because Republicans want to make IDs more accessible, but because, if they didn’t make IDs and birth certificates available for free, HB 6066 would likely be found unconstitutional, as, under our Constitution, state governments cannot require that people be forced to spend money in order to vote, as doing so would be considered a poll tax.

It’s also worth noting that, despite what Trump may have tweeted a few weeks ago about “millions” of people assuming false identities to vote, America does not have a problem when it comes to voter impersonation. Voter fraud, at least on the individual level, as anyone who works in this field will tell you, is extremely rare. In evidence of this fact, a comprehensive investigation in 2014 found that, out of 1 billion votes cast in the United States, there were only 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation. And, this past election cycle, the only documented instance, at least to my knowledge, was a single woman in Iowa who was caught attempting to vote for Trump twice. So, this legislation, which came out of the House Elections Committee at the behest of Republican Lisa Posthumous Lyons, at best, is a solution in search of a problem. At worst, however, it’s a very deliberate attempt to discourage a relatively significant portion of our population from voting. [It’s estimated that over 10% of eligible American voters do not have any official form of identification.]

You know, as much as it angered me when Donald Trump told the American people that our elections were rigged, he actually wasn’t too far off. Of course, they’re not “rigged” in the way that he said. Millions of undocumented workers weren’t pouring into California from Mexico, risking their lives to vote for Hillary Clinton. Elections are, however… and this isn’t hyperbole… being stolen in the United States.

Here, if you don’t believe me, is a pretty good example.

Michigan, like it or not, has become a presidential swing state. This past election, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by just 10,704 votes. And that’s out of a total of about 4.8 million votes cast. In other words, .002% of voters decided the election. Now consider the fact that, according to State Rep Jeff Irwin [see video below] roughly 18,000 legally registered Michigan voters came to the polls for the Presidential election without ID, filled out an affidavit, and voted. Now what happens the next time we’re called on to vote, when nearly twice as many people as decided the last election are now told that they cannot vote, due the passage of HB 6066, which passed despite the fact that the Republicans in the House could show no fraud? What happens when the roughly 10% of American adults who, for whatever reason, don’t have a state ID, most of whom are already disenfranchised to some extent, are told that, even if they’re registered, they can’t vote? I’ll tell you. The Republicans will win. And they don’t have to hack voting machines, or send operatives into polling places to vote in disguise to do it. All they have to do is make it easier for their fellow conservatives to vote, while making it more difficult for the poor and people of color. It’s that easy.

So, yes, this is kind of a big deal.

As State Rep Fred Durhal said in the wake of the House vote, “Fifty-one years after the Voting Rights act passed, we’re still trying to protect the right to vote.” He then added, “This is the same type of legislation laws that were used back in the day to prevent people from the right to vote. This bill is discrimination, masked as a means to bolster our security.” [That, by the way, is why I used the poll tax image at the outset of tonight’s post. I know the state, in this case, will be covering the costs associated with obtaining the license, in order to avoid a constitutional challenge, but what about the time it takes to navigate the bureaucracy, especially as Secretary of State offices move farther and farther from disadvantaged populations? Isn’t that also a kind of poll tax, an extra burden intended to limit participation?]

Now, please take a few minutes, look u your state Senator’s number, give their office a call, and say the following… which I just stole from my friend Jennifer Schlicht.

I would like to ask the Senator to oppose State House bill 6066. Voter identification fraud is virtually non-existent – only 241 *possibly* fraudulent ballots have been found in *one billion* votes examined over a 14 year period.

However, this bill *will* disenfranchise many Michiganders – particularly those who are elderly, young, disabled, and poor. This will also increase wait times at the polls, which are increasingly long and which already make it difficult for many to vote.

We should be encouraging voter participation in our democracy instead of making voting increasingly difficult.

Thank you for your time.

Like I said at the outset, it’s an uphill battle, but it’s a battle worth having. We need to do it. We need to get in the habit of making these calls and actively participating. We need to create a culture of resistance, and this is how it starts… So make you call, and then have your friends do the same, especially if they live in Republican districts. We need to put our elected officials on notice that we’re watching and keeping track.

Now here’s that video from Jeff Irwin that I promised. It was shot last night, right before the vote on HB 6066. “Voting is a fundamental right,” Irwin says. “It is essential to the legitimacy of our democracy, and you cannot enact financial barriers to our voting rights. Not only is it wrong, it is unconstitutional, it is a poll tax, don’t do it.”

[note: If you’re making calls to Senators who you think will likely vote for the legislation, and find that you need to take a break, maybe also work in a call of “thanks” to the offices of those five House Republicans who stood up and did the right thing by voting against voter suppression last night. I don’t have their names handy, but I suspect they can be found.]

I know it may not sound like a big deal to require that people have photo IDs in order to vote. You might be thinking, “I stood in line at the Secretary of State office, why can’t everyone else?” The truth is, however, that not everyone has the means to track down the required paperwork, or the time to invest in navigating the state bureaucracy. More importantly, though, we should be looking ways to open up access right now, and not limit it. Not only is there no credible evidence that voter fraud, like that which HB 6066 is seeking to stop, even exists, but a huge percentage of our citizens aren’t participating as it is. [Michigan, with a population of 9.91 million, has 7,481,074 registered voters, 4.9 million of whom voted in the last presidential election.] If we want to pass any election related laws right now, they should be directed toward increasing access, not limiting it.

And, one last thing… If we don’t stop this now, they’ll keep at it. You can be sure there will be even fewer polling places in communities of color, and even greater hurdles intended to keep certain people from voting. As we’ve discussed before, the Republicans cannot win otherwise. They just don’t have the numbers. So they need to find ways, through gerrymandering and voter suppression, to stay in power. And it’s our job not only to stop them, but to turn the tide in the other direction, fighting for non-partisan redistricting, early voting, and anything else that we can think of to increase democratic participation. We cannot allow the the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act to continue.

So start calling, OK? The assault isn’t coming. It’s already here. And we need to start fighting.

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8 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted December 8, 2016 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Detroit News Editorial Board on #HB6066:

    “While showing photo ID isn’t necessarily the egregious burden many make it out to be, it’s also not necessary for voting to take place with integrity.

    Other solutions exist that don’t require extra visits to clerks’ offices, not to mention $10 million from the state’s budget — the amount this legislation requests. The appropriation is designed to protect the bill from being repealed by voters.

    The money would go toward “election modernization, voter education and implementation” of the new rules. It would be better spent upgrading the voting equipment in communities where the machinery is unreliable.

    The proposed law would create additional barriers to voting, and is a step in the wrong direction. The state should instead be looking for ways to increase participation in the electoral process.

    Michigan is one of a minority of states without no-reason absentee voting and early voting options. Those are the measure lawmakers ought to be considering as they prepare to adjourn this legislative session.”

  2. Posted December 8, 2016 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    I don’t usually do it, but I decided to reuse a few paragraphs here. I figured there was a pretty good chance that some people might not have seen them already. Or, if they had, I thought that maybe they could benefit from the repetition. I think, by the way, that I need to start repeating myself more. I think that’s what works these days. Bluster and repetition.

  3. stupid hick
    Posted December 8, 2016 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    You acknowledge that Republicans are successful because they are willing to go to extremes to disenfranchise your side. You will continue to lose ground if your only reaction is to protest their tactics and beg your representatives to vote down their efforts to take more from you. If you ever want to regain that ground, you liberals better start scheming about how to disenfranchise them.

  4. Jean Henry
    Posted December 8, 2016 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Jeff Irwin is a champion.

  5. Posted December 8, 2016 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    I have it on good authority that these are the five Republicans who crossed party lines in the House to vote with the Democrats… If you know them, tell them I said thank you.

    Ed Canfield
    Bret Roberts
    Martin Howrylak
    Ed McBroom

    I thought there were five, but that’s only four… so maybe I was wrong.

  6. stupid hick
    Posted December 8, 2016 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    If you are a known liberal celebrity like Mark Maynard, thanking them for voting with the Democrats is crazy. Do you want them to rethink their vote? If you view them as a moderate ally on this and other possible issues, why would you want to damage their standing with their base? Consider they may not want your liberal thanks or endorsement, it may be poison to them. Something else to consider, are you sure you really flipped them? You still lost 57-50. Don’t you think Republican leadership already knows what the count will be before a vote takes place? Maybe those five were allowed to vote the other way for a specific tactical reason having to do with their own district, because it wouldn’t jeopardize the result. I don’t know whether that’s true here, but do you know it’s not?

  7. M
    Posted December 9, 2016 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    You don’t have to “thank them for voting like a democrat.” You can thank them for being their own people and looking at the facts objectively. It takes courage to stand up to one’s party.

  8. Meta
    Posted December 10, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Oh, it was rigged.

    From today’s Chicago Times:

    “The CIA concluded Russia worked to elect Trump. Republicans now face an impossible choice.”

    Read the article:
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-analysis-cia-russia-trump-republicans-20161209-story.html

One Trackback

  1. […] Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, it looks as though the Michigan Senate will not be voting on the controversial voter ID law that passed the House last week. According to Meekhof, Senate Republicans just didn’t have the time during the lame duck […]

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