Michigan Republicans introduce bills that would make it harder to vote after historic election


Election sign in Detroit. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • Election sign in Detroit.

Michigan Republicans responded to record voter turnout by introducing a package of bills Wednesday that would make it harder to cast a ballot.

The 39-bill package comes amid false and discredited claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Democrats dismissed the bills as a blatant attempt to restrict voter turnout, especially among people of color.

“The Michigan Senate Republicans’ latest attempt to strip Michiganders’ access to their Constitutional right to vote is an unconscionable resurrection of Jim Crow designed to keep Black and Brown Americans from fully participating in the democratic process,” Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, said in a statement. “These bills will do nothing but limit access to voting booths and disproportionately affect these communities, while further perpetuating the institutional, systemic racism we live with every day. It is nothing short of racial terrorism and an attempt to create voting apartheid.”

The bills would:

• Require voters to present a photo ID with their absentee ballot application;
• Prevent the secretary of state from unsolicited mass mailings of absentee ballot applications, as done in 2020;
• Prohibit clerks from providing prepaid postage on absentee ballot return envelopes;
• Prohibit the use of an absentee ballot drop box after 5 p.m. on the day before the election or on election day;
• Prohibit the affidavit option at the polls for people without ID.

Republicans insist the bills are intended to restore faith in the election, despite no proven claims of fraud.

“For any republic to survive, it must be built on the solid foundation of free and fair elections,” Sen. John Bizon, M.D., R-Battle Creek, said. “Today we took a major step forward to not only help guarantee secure elections but also to ensure fairness to observers and increase overall transparency.”

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said the bills are too restrictive and are in response to false narratives about rampant election fraud.

“Many of the bills in this package will make it harder for citizens to vote,” Benson said. “Rather than introducing bills based on disproven lies and copied from other states, lawmakers should be codifying what worked in 2020. Michigan voters demonstrated they want our elections to be accessible in 2018 when they enshrined new voting rights in our state constitution, and again in 2020 when millions exercised those new rights. Everything we do should be based on protecting the right to vote, and too many of these bills would do the opposite.”

Benson on Monday called on lawmakers to expand access to the ballot box by approving measures introduced by Democrats. One bill would require clerks to send absentee ballot applications to all voters and maintain a permanent voter application list. Another would allow absentee ballot processing up to 22 days before the election. Under another bill, voters would be able to fix signature errors on absentee ballots and applications.

Those bills were stalled by Republicans.

Advocates of voting rights slammed the GOP package.

“This package of bills contains some of the most egregious voter suppression ideas Michigan has seen,” Chris Swope, president of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks, said. “With nearly 30 percent of Michiganders not participating, we need to focus on expanding ballot access, not attempts to disenfranchise certain voters.”

Michigan is among 43 states where Republicans have introduced bills that would restrict ballot access, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. They are justifying their actions by repeating false and discredited claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

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