The Republican-led Michigan House passed several measures Tuesday aimed at tightening state election laws that backers say would protect against voter fraud and critics counter would create obstacles to voting.
Michigan's Republican secretary of state introduced the proposals, which now go to the GOP-led Senate to be considered with other proposals in that chamber.
The eight-bill House package includes requiring voters to present photo identification when applying for an absentee ballot in their first election or sign an affidavit. Third-party voter registration groups also would have to register and receive training.
The efforts have been pushed largely by Republicans and opposed by Democrats, along with nonpartisan groups such as the League of Women Voters and Project Vote.
Democrats offered numerous amendments that were rejected, including proposals to allow for online registration for voters and registration groups, as well as exempting organizations with at least five years' experience.
"We are considering legislation that could turn back the clock in terms of making sure that all of our citizens have free and unobstructed access to the right to vote," said Flint Democratic Rep. Woodrow Stanley. He and others said there's no rampant voter fraud in Michigan that has brought about the need for such proposals in the first place.
Shelby Township Republican Rep. Peter Lund, chairman of the House Redistricting and Elections committee, said the aim is not to quash legitimate and legal voting but make the state's voting system more secure.
"Talking about suppressing the vote, I'll be honest with you: We want to suppress the dead vote," he said, referring to one measure that calls for creating an inactive voter file to separate regular voters from those who have died, are no longer eligible to vote in Michigan or don't vote consistently.
Michigan is already among 16 states that require or request a photo ID of voters when they cast ballots, though not all of the laws have taken effect, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The conference's website says election legislation is pending in 32 states this year, including 10 with proposals to strengthen existing voter ID laws.