According to State Rep Jeff Irwin, whom I just traded emails with, it looks as though the controversial Voter ID law being pushed through the Michigan House this lame duck session by Republican lawmakers, will be coming up for a vote tomorrow. Given that the House is currently divided 63 to 46, with Republicans having a 17 vote advantage, I’m not holding out much hope that the body will do the right thing, but, as I suppose there’s still a chance, I wanted to share this Detroit News op-ed by Irwin and his fellow State Reps Gretchen Driskell and Jon Hoadley, all of whom serve on the House Elections Committee. If, after reading what they have to say about why these proposed voter suppression bills [HB 6066, 6067, and 6068] are bad for Michigan, and why we should instead be enacting laws to increase participation, please call you elected officials, especially if you live in Republican districts, and demand that they vote no… Or, better yes, demand that they instead support the Voter Bill of Rights sponsored by Driskell and Hoadley, that would increase, rather than limit, participation in the democratic process… Here’s the op-ed.
As we continue to analyze this year’s unconventional election, two things have become very clear: Michiganians are concerned about the integrity of our elections, and voters want their voices to be heard in our democracy. A package of bills in the Michigan Legislature claims to be addressing those concerns.
Don’t be fooled.
The House Committee on Elections, on which we sit, held a hearing on House Bills 6066, 6067, and 6068 on the morning of Nov. 30, just hours after they were introduced and made available to the public the previous evening.
The bills would require voters who do not bring a photo ID to their polling place on Election Day to vote with a provisional ballot. Their ballot would only be counted if the voter then returned to their clerk with valid photo ID within 10 days.
This is an attack on our freedom disguised as an appeal to security.
Having to show additional identification at the polls is a duplicative requirement. The fact is that these voters have already proven their identity in the past. Requiring voters who lost, forgot, or otherwise don’t currently have an ID to prove their innocence while assuming their guilt is an insult to our rule of law.
Furthermore, forcing working mothers and fathers, disabled voters, elderly voters, sick voters, impoverished voters, and other vulnerable citizens to jump through extra hoops, while other voters do not, is discrimination, plain and simple.
If the Michigan Legislature really wanted to make our elections secure, accurate, and modern, they would have passed the Voter Bill of Rights, a joint resolution we introduced in July of this year. The resolution would give voters the opportunity to add the Voter Bill of Rights to the Michigan Constitution, ensuring that every citizen who is a Michigan resident and is of voting age has the right to:
■ Vote a secret ballot;
■ If serving in the military or living overseas, have an absentee ballot sent at least 45 days before the election to ensure he/she has adequate time to send it back;
■ Remain registered wherever he/she resides in Michigan;
■ Be automatically registered to vote while conducting other business (such as driver’s license renewal) with the Secretary of State;
■ Register to vote in person or by mail up to 15 days before the election;
■ Vote by absentee ballot in person for at least 15 days before an election;
■ Vote by absentee ballot without giving a reason.
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia offer in-person early voting. Twenty-seven states and D.C. offer no-reason absentee voting. If we really want to ensure the integrity of our elections — to make sure they are safe, secure and accurate — we should modernize our voting systems. We shouldn’t be putting up barriers to our voting rights as the recent package of bills does.
As we discussed a few days ago, these three Republican bills being forced through the Michigan House constitute an expensive solution in search of a problem. The Republican supporters of the legislation tell us that it’s necessary in order to decrease incidents of voter impersonation. The only problem is, they can’t present evidence showing that voter impersonation really even happens in Michigan. [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, perhaps just as importantly, they haven’t shown, at least to my knowledge, how they’d pay to enact the legislation, if it should pass. [As I understand it, if this passes, we’ll have to offer Michigan IDs for free, as well as help subsidize the acquisition of birth certificates and the documentation required to obtain an ID, as not doing so would render the legislation unconstitutional, as American citizens cannot, under the law, be forced to `expend any money in order to vote, as doing so would be considered a poll tax.] No, this is nothing more that straight-up voter suppression, the likes of which we’re seeing pushed in every Republican held statehouse across the land right now in hopes of further gutting the Voting Rights Act and driving down the liberal vote.
Here, in case you missed my last post on HB 6066, is how I summed things up before asking people to call their State Reps.
…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…
Now call your State Reps and demand that they vote against 6066 on Wednesday, and start lobbying on behalf of the Voter Bill of Rights instead.