Vice President Kamala Harris, during her stop in Detroit this week, took aim at Republican voter suppression efforts in Michigan and elsewhere, calling the fight for the right to vote “as American as apple pie.” We’ll have a slice of that. Those who would make it harder to participate in our elections are at best unpatriotic and at worst partisan connivers looking to tip the scales of our democracy toward themselves by disenfranchising voters who tend to cast their ballots for Democrats.
Which brings us to Senate Republicans in the Michigan Legislature, who last week took another swing at advancing their package of 39 so-called “election security” bills. For the most part, the bills are a farce masquerading as serious concern for the integrity of our elections. Taken as a whole, it’s easy to discern the intent behind the package, which is clearly the result of a brainstorming session among Republican strategists whose mission was to dream up as many ways as possible to muck up the voting process in Michigan.
Having promoted the lie that the presidential election was stolen amid rampant voter fraud, the Grand Old Party now has to work overtime to assuage a still-agitated base that drank copious amounts of orange Kool Aid last year, gleefully dispensed by folks like Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and his colleagues. Evidently, failing to embrace the voter fraud meme remains one of the Seven Deadly Sins of today’s Republican Party. Cowardice and mendacity easily supplant courage and conviction among those who fear being branded as co-conspirators with devilish Democrats looking to steal future elections. Even worse, they might be run off the Republican ranch altogether by a primary challenger shouting “stop the steal” while waving a MAGA 2024 banner.
The Republican proposals range from the innocuous and the inane to the downright dangerous, at least insofar as any attempt to suppress the vote is a grave hazard to our democracy. Among the worst of the bunch is a bill that would require signature verification at the polls, a surefire recipe for chaos and confusion on Election Day. While we appreciate and honor the hard work of the citizen poll workers who help make the voting process run smoothly, asking them to validate signatures for every voter who walks through the door is a bridge too far.
A related measure would require voters to present photo IDs in order to vote at the polls. If you don’t have a photo ID or forgot it at home, instead of signing an affidavit attesting to your identity, your vote would be considered provisional, which would then require you to visit your local clerk’s office within six days to prove your identity. Adopting these bills would make Michigan the only state in the nation to require both photo ID and signature verification at the polls.
Taking special aim at suppressing the absentee vote, which is generally thought to favor Democrats, the Republicans at first floated the idea that absentee voters must send a photocopy of their driver’s license or state ID along with their ballot. They’ve since come to understand that most people think that’s a really dumb idea, so they shifted gears to writing your ID number or the last four digits of your Social Security number on your ballot. Of course, none of this is necessary to ensure safe elections. Absentee ballots are already subject to rigorous validation to ensure that the voter in question is on the rolls, alive and eligible to vote.
Another bill would prohibit the secretary of state and local clerks from mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications to eligible voters. This bit of malarkey goes hand-in-hand with the attempt to mislead gullible people into believing that many voters — some of them no longer among the living — were sent actual ballots they never requested. Of course, both major political parties and numerous candidates on both sides of the aisle routinely send out absentee ballot applications to encourage their preferred voters to vote by mail.
And God forbid that anyone uses one of the fleet of drop boxes deployed in communities across the state, including here in Lansing, to make it more convenient to vote. Despite zero validated claims of ballot box stuffing or other nefarious abuses, Republicans want clerks to install expensive video surveillance cameras to monitor each one — just in case.
Even the most trivial of the bills — especially the one that prohibits the secretary of state and local clerks from putting their name or likeness on any publicly funded election communications — reeks of hypocrisy, coming as it does from the same Capitol gang that routinely spends your tax dollars promoting themselves with glossy mailers.
City and county clerks across the state, at least the ones who take their jobs as neutral election administrators seriously, are understandably aghast at many of the proposals. To their credit, they are working in good faith with legislators to ferret out the proposals that make sense, tweak the ones that need work and discard those that make it harder for citizens to vote and for administrators to run smooth elections. We applaud their efforts.
What can you do to help stop the voter suppression crazy train at the Capitol? Call your state legislators to let them know you are watching, especially if you live in a district represented by a Republican. Above all, exercise your right to vote. As the old saying goes, in a democracy we get the government we deserve.