Guest column: AARP blasts Legislature on voter ID bills

By Mark Hornbeck/AARP

AARP Michigan opposes bills (Senate Bills 751 and 754) moving through the Legislature that will make it more difficult for many state residents to register to vote and to participate in elections.

Michigan already meets federal election standards. States should not impose unreasonable identification requirements that discourage or prevent citizens from voting.

We particularly oppose a requirement in the legislation for photo identification in order to obtain an absentee ballot. Many eligible voters don’t have the kind of identification required and will have difficulty getting it.

"Nearly one in five people age 65 or older don't have photo ID," says Jacqueline Morrison, state director of AARP Michigan, "People who have been voting all of their adult life will face this hurdle if the legislation passes."

A 2006 survey by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that about 11 millionU.S.citizens have neither a birth certificate nor a passport in their home. The survey also found:

* Low-income people are nearly twice as likely to lack these documents as people with higher incomes.

* Older residents are much more likely to lack these documents than younger residents.

* African Americans are much more likely to lack these documents than white residents.

* Rural residents are more than twice as likely to lack a birth certificate or passport as non-rural residents.

The right to vote, along with full and fair representation, is the most basic of political rights. The imposition by government of identification requirements for the exercise of this right are a hindrance and impediment for voters.

States should adopt fair, simple, and readily accessible voter registration procedures, including online registration.

State procedures to prevent and detect voter fraud should be fair, nondiscriminatory and free of partisan bias. Enforcement of ID requirements should not impede voter registration, turnout, or participation.

Mark Hornbeck is associate state director of communications for AARP Michigan.

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