Michigan Needs New Voting Registration Laws?

We aired a story by the Michigan Radio Network’s Tim Skubick on today’s Morning Team Show on how voter registration “reform” will top the agenda when the Michigan legislature returns from break.  With a state suffering a massive unemployment problem, I’m wondering how making it tougher for people to register to vote is fixing that problem.

The Muskegon Chronicle has an extensive write-up on the two state Senate bills that would require a photo ID for in-person registration and absentee voting, and require new rules for groups who perform registration drives.

On voter-registration drives, Senate Bill 754 would require groups and individuals holding such drives to register with the Michigan Secretary of State and those organizations also would have to participate in a training session held by the county clerk.

I’m sympathetic to the argument that we all have to have a picture ID to drive, fly, and go overseas.  Some people could easily obtain a picture ID in order to register to vote.

However, others might not have such an easy time.

The legislation, which has quickly drawn concerns and criticism from clerks across the state, is designed to prevent voter fraud. But municipal clerks say it would impose an unreasonable burden that could discourage the elderly and handicapped from voting.

Joel Hondorp, president of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks, said the bill imposes numerous election restrictions in a relatively confusing manner.

Interpretations still vary whether election officials would have to verify annually that all seniors on the absentee voting (AV) list are 60 or older, as the law requires.

“When we first heard about this, the joke was, ‘Are we supposed to make sure they didn’t get any younger?’” said Hondorp, the clerk for Byron Township in Kent County.

The clerk’s association has determined so far that election officials would have to certify to the Secretary of State that those on their AV list claiming blindness or a disability are still suffering from those maladies, which means they would still be eligible for absentee voting.

If the list is not certified, the community would be barred from maintaining an AV list in future election cycles, meaning those who traditionally vote absentee would have to request an AV application in the required time frame before each election.

Clerks say that large cities with AV lists comprised of tens of thousands of voters or more would face an impossible task to certify the legality of every voter.

“This could have a major impact on turnout. It will put more work on advocacy groups to remind these people every year, or two years, that they have to apply for a ballot. And on Election Day, lots of people will call their clerk’s office asking, ‘Where’s my ballot?’” State Sen. David Robertson, the Grand Blanc Republican who introduced the legislation, could not be reached for comment. But Robertson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government and Elections, also introduced other pieces of election reform legislation last month.

In a press release, he said his goal is “maintaining a secure and fair elections process.”

Right, I hear ya!

I hate to be cynical, but it appears these bills designed to cut-down on “voter fraud” are really attempting to cut-down on voting, period.  If there’s all this voter fraud happening, can those pushing this legislation present hard evidence that fraud is having a big impact on final voting results?

Also, if same-day registration is such a threat to our democracy, how come Republicans voting in tonight’s Iowa caucuses allowed on-site registration?

We celebrate the fact that Iraqis and Egyptians can vote, but we’re fighting to limit those who can vote here in the United States.

Hard to believe?  Not really.  This is how much the elite fears the people living beneath them.

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