Michigan Senate approves bill with voting restrictions


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republicans in the Michigan Senate on Wednesday again passed legislation that would make it harder to vote, advancing photo ID, absentee ballot and other changes that face a surefire veto from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer if they reach her desk.

“This the most restrictive, anti-voter bill we’ve seen from the Republicans yet. It mirrors the so-called ‘Secure MI Vote’ ballot initiative that right-wing special interest groups are using to suppress the vote in Michigan. Like the ballot initiative, SB 303 will take away options for voters on Election Day, make it harder for voters to access absentee ballots and hamstrings election officials’ ability to administer elections and inform voters of their rights. This bill will make it more difficult to vote and disproportionately impact seniors, rural voters, voters with disabilities and Black and brown voters.”

Lonnie Scott, Executive Director of Progress Michigan

Senate Elections Committee Chair Ruth Johnson on Wednesday supported Senate approval of legislation to strengthen ID requirements for voting. The Senate is also set to approve a measure to make it easier for residents to get a free state personal identification card.

“As I have said before, there is strong bipartisan support among Michigan voters to have people verify their identity with an ID when voting to protect the integrity of our elections. We must remain vigilant to protect the voice of the people. Ensuring the security of our elections is vital to our democracy, and this legislation will help to fix vulnerabilities which were created by Proposal 3 of 2018.”

Senate Elections Committee Chair Ruth Johnson

A statewide poll in May 2021 showed that 79.7 percent of Michigan registered voters support requiring “every voter coming to the polls present a government-issued identification to cast their ballot.” In this poll 100 percent of strong Republicans, 83.4 percent of Independents, and 58.4 percent of strong Democrats were supporting.

Senate Bill 303 would require voters to show correct identification when voting in person and require absentee voters to write their Michigan driver’s license number or state ID card number on their absentee ballot application to verify their identity. Under the bill, another thing voters could do is write the last four digits of their social security number on their application or present their ID to their clerk to get an absentee ballot.

Johnson says changes made by Proposal 3 of 2018 made Michigan’s system more vulnerable, for example people could register and vote without even being seen before in-person.

“Applying similar standards for absentee voters that we have for in-person voters will protect the vote of every Michigan citizen and help to restore public confidence in our elections,” Johnson said. “To protect everyone’s right to vote, we also will be passing legislation that will make state IDs free of charge which will help people on many fronts, not just voting.”

Jamie Lyons-Eddy, the Deputy Director of Voters Not Politicians has a different point of view on Senate Bill 303.

“Republican politicians today fully embraced the Big Lie and passed legislation to make it harder for Michigan residents to vote. Their own eight-month long, exhaustive investigation confirmed like the 250 audits that came before it that Michigan’s 2020 elections were fair and secure. It found no evidence of election fraud. But that did not stop them from passing bills that will force millions of Michiganders to overcome new barriers to participate in democracy by voting.”

Jamie Lyons-Eddy, the Deputy Director of Voters Not Politicians

On Thursday, the Senate is ready to pass two additional measures.

The House Bill 5007 would make getting or renewing an official state personal identification card free to Michigan residents. The SB 304 would also prohibit the use of third-party money for elections administration in Michigan and ban the secretary of state or other government officials from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters

The regular legislation would require prospective absentee voters to include their driver’s license number, state ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. The move is opposed by Democrats and at least some House Republicans as too cumbersome compared with an existing requirement to sign the application.

The bill would eliminate the ability of in-person voters without a photo ID to sign an affidavit and still vote. Instead, they would get a provisional ballot and have to verify their identity within six days of the election for it to count.

The secretary of state and local clerks would be barred from mailing unsolicited ballot applications.

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