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Package of Voter Suppression Bills in Michigan Includes Uncommon Proof of Citizenship Legislation

In Michigan’s Presidential primary this past February, voters had to prove their U.S. citizenship before obtaining a ballot. The uncommon arrangement has been dubbed necessary by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson who fears illegal immigrants are trying to participate in the state’s elections. However, Johnson’s detractors, such as Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, have called the approach, “the “proverbial solution in search of a problem.”

In Michigan, it is much more likely that this legislation will disenfranchise eligible voters, especially the elderly who are not used to the new procedure, than prevent fraud. The law, and several others being pushed by Republican lawmakers, are effectively voter suppression without being labeled outright as such (“voter ID”).

Michigan appears to have some issues with its voter rolls, but they are not severe enough to warrant this bill:

Johnson is pursuing the citizenship bill as part of a larger effort to clean up the state’s voter registration records.

A cross-referencing of state voter registration records with 15 other states recently found 164,837 Michigan voters are registered in another state, leaving Michigan with an impossible 102.54 percent voter registration rate among eligible adults.

Most of the dual-registered voters have likely left Michigan in the past decade, she said. One of the bills would establish a procedure for revoking voter registration for individuals who haven’t voted in at least six years and fail to respond to government inquires about their residency.

The state GOP blames the situation on the Federal Motor Voter Act of 1993 and has gone to great lengths, often subverting the democratic process, to try to pass unpopular laws:

…how they’ve done this is remarkable. These “immediate effect” laws are supposed to get a two-thirds majority. That’s numerically impossible in the House, because Republicans don’t have two-thirds majority and Democrats have remained united as a bloc against them. The House Republicans simply ignore the two-thirds part of the law. They hold a separate “immediate effect” vote after voting in a bill, and rather than doing a roll call vote, just simply eyeball the assembly and call it two-thirds.

Michigan Democrats, after a year of this, finally sued, and on Monday got a county judge to issue “a temporary injunction ordering Michigan House Republicans to follow the law, to follow the constitution, to let the minority vote even though the minority are Democrats.”

It should be noted that one of the seven bills being pursued is actually a step in the right direction that would lessen restrictions on voting via absentee ballot. This piece of legislation, unfortunately/naturally, has stalled since being introduced earlier this year.

The latest voter suppression outrage comes from Detroit where the appointed Emergency Financial Manager is threatening to defund the Presidential election in a predominantly Democrat-leaning district:

Detroit spent $1.49 million on the 2008 Presidential election, and this year requested $1.2 million but was only granted $737,000.

After Detroit Mayor Dave Bing (D) cut the budget for the Presidential election in half and cut the Department of Elections by 25%, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said there is no way they can conduct the 2012 Presidential election due to their inability to comply with federal law under the severe budget constraints. The Mayor tried to pass this off as shared sacrifices, but sacrificing the root of democracy itself is not exactly the same thing as cutting salaries.

For a clear and concise argument against the voter suppression package, read Project Vote’s March news release.


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