Michigan GOP launches ballot drive to impose voting restrictions

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A polling station in Detroit. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • A polling station in Detroit.

Michigan Republicans plan to launch a petition drive that election officials and voting-rights advocates warn will make it more difficult to vote.

The petition from the GOP-driven Secure MI Vote is intended to enable Republican state lawmakers to circumvent a veto from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. A peculiarity in Michigan’s constitution allows the Legislature to bypass the governor and approve a law if more than 340,000 voters — or at least 8% of the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election — sign a petition to create a ballot initiative.



Secure MI Vote will have six months to collect the signatures.

The petition calls for imposing strict photo ID requirements on voters who cast a ballot at polling locations or by absentee. The initiative also would bar the secretary of state and clerks from sending unsolicited ballot applications, as was done in the 2020 presidential election, when a record 3.3 million people voted absentee.



Under the proposal, absentee voters would be required to submit a photocopy of their driver’s license or state ID or the last four digits of their social security number to request a ballot.

To cast a ballot in person, voters would be required to show their driver’s license or state ID. Under the current law, voters who don’t have access to a photo ID can sign an affidavit attesting to their identity. The initiative would ban the use of affidavits and instead require voters to sign a provisional ballot, which would only be counted if voters present their ID to their local clerk’s office within six days of the election.

Secretary of State Jerilyn Benson said on Twitter that the proposal represents “the battle over the future of our democracy.”

Democrats also criticized the initiative, saying it’s an attempt to restrict voter access.

"Michigan Republicans will try every trick in the book to confuse and intimidate voters,” Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes said in a statement. “They want fewer people to vote because they just discovered what we have always known, when people vote, Democrats win. That is what this ballot proposal is all about, creating barriers to voting so fewer people have access to the polls.”

Barnes said the initiative would weaken a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 2018 that allowed no-excuse absentee voting and expanded other voting rights in Michigan. The amendment passed in 80 of the state’s 83 counties.

“Michiganders have already spoken on this issue when more than 66% of voters passed proposal 3 in 2018,” Barnes said. “The GOP playbook of losing, lying, and attempting to cheat their way into office is getting old. It has been more than 300 days since the 2020 election, and while Democrats have gotten to work helping Michiganders, the GOP simply can't accept defeat."

The ballot drive is just the latest effort by Republicans to impose new restrictions on voting after then-President Donald Trump and his ardent supporters have repeatedly made baseless claims that the election was mired in widespread fraud.

“Republicans wanting to restore confidence in elections is like an arsonist calling the fire department. The only reason not to have confidence in our elections is to buy into ‘the Big Lie’,” said Ken Whittaker, executive director of Michigan United, a coalition of labor, business, social service and civil rights members. “But I don’t think anyone is going to be fooled by this ploy. We’ve already voted to make sure everyone’s voice could be heard in this democracy and it worked. Now that we have all seen that we can have a say in our future, there’s no going back.”

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