Michigan GOP passes voter ID bill to deter ‘fraud.’ Critics call it ‘garbage’
LANSING — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday passed three bills to overhaul voter ID requirements and add new restrictions to those casting absentee ballots.
The three bills, SB285, SB303 and SB304, eliminate the option for voters to sign an affidavit if they lack identification, requiring them instead to cast a provisional ballot and prove their identity within six days.
The bills would also require voters requesting an absentee ballot to provide on the application their driver license or state ID number, last four digits of their Social Security number, or submit an original or copy of their ID.
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Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, said the bills would help “deter and avoid election fraud.”
“Requiring certification verification is a simple but critical step to ensure the integrity of our election process moving forward,” Theis said. “It's not creating a personal security risk. It's not voter suppression, it's not an undue burden.”
There was one reported case of voter fraud in Michigan related to the 2020 election. In that case, a man forged his daughter’s signature on an absentee ballot.
The ID proposals are part of a 39-bill package introduced by Republicans in the Michigan Legislature, similar to ones introduced in other GOP-led statehouses following former President Donald Trump’s unproven claims of widespread voter fraud.
Republicans cited a recent Detroit Regional Chamber poll that indicated 79.9 percent of Michigan voters favor a voter ID law. Most European nations and Canada also require IDs to vote, but opponents say the new measures are intended to suppress votes of minorities.
Last November, a majority of the 11,400 votes cast without an ID were in Detroit, according to records analyzed by Bridge Michigan. In all, only 0.2 percent of total votes were done so without an ID last year.
Sen. Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit, slammed the measures as “egregious” and “garbage.”
“This bill package is not about voter integrity, it’s not about preventing fraud, it is not about ensuring the security of our election, and this is not about preventing foreign interference,” Santana said on the Senate floor.
“This is about being scared of losing an election because of what Brother Malcolm (X) said, ‘We are not outnumbered, we are out organized.”
The proposals are opposed by progressive groups and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat. Michigan estimates aren’t available, but some studies claim as many as 13 percent of African-American residents nationwide lack a government-issued ID.
Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, slammed the Republican majority for passing the measures without having additional legislation that would make it easier for Michiganders to get some sort of ID.
That day, though, Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, introduced a bill that would waive the fees associated with getting a state identification card.
The Michigan County Clerks Association opposes some of the bills, including the proposal that eliminates the in-person affidavit option.
“The data is there to back up the fact that this is a secure process, and that we do not have a voter impersonation problem,” said Justin Roebuck, a Republican who is the Ottawa County clerk and co-chair of the clerk group’s legislative committee.
“I really do believe that the Legislature, if they fundamentally think this change needs to be implemented, should produce the data that says we have a voter impersonation problem, because I'm not finding it and I've been here for over 10 years as an election administrator.”
The clerk group, though, supports the concept of requiring voters to submit some form of identification for an absentee ballot.
“Sometimes we have to walk that line between making sure the process is simple and easy for voters, and making sure that it's secure,” Roebuck said. “I do think there's an importance to place on the security element.”
The measures now go to the House, which is also controlled by Republicans.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, will likely veto them, as her office has said “any piece of legislation that seeks to take away a person’s right to vote or creates barriers to voting is a non-starter.”
Republicans are planning to bypass Whitmer, however, with a petition drive.
Should organizers collect 340,047 signatures to put the reforms before voters, the Republican-led Legislature could enact them into law.
That’s because Michigan is one of two states with a constitutional provision that prohibits the governor from vetoing resident-initiated legislation that is adopted by the Legislature instead.
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