Michigan GOP group launches ballot drive to ‘tighten’ voting laws, making it harder to vote for many

No evidence of fraud connected to current Michigan voting laws

FILE - In this May 5, 2020, file photo, Jordan Smellie moves absentee ballots to be counted at City Hall in Garden City, Mich. The Michigan appeals court has denied a request to require the counting of absentee ballots received after the time polls close on Election Day. The ruling says the deadline remains intact despite voters' approval of a constitutional amendment that expanded mail-in voting. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File) (Paul Sancya, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A group of Republican operatives in Michigan are launching a ballot drive to change voting and election laws, making it harder to vote for thousands, while evading a potential veto from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“Secure MI Vote” aims to collect 340,000 valid voter signatures in a six month window. Here’s what the petition proposes:

  • Eliminating an option that allows those without a photo ID to submit an affidavit and vote. People without an ID would get a provisional ballot and would have to verify their identity within six days after the election for their vote to be counted. (Just 11,000 out of 5.6 million voters did this in 2020).
  • Adding an ID requirement to absentee ballot applications, requiring voters submit their driver’s license number or last four digits of their Social Security number. More than 3 million voted absentee in 2020, currently verified with a signature match to the person’s voter file, and voters have to show ID when registering to vote.
  • Prohibiting the secretary of state and local clerks from sending voter applications to people who didn’t request them, creating a $3 million fund to help low-income residents get IDs.

Jamie Roe, spokesman for Secure MI Vote, said voters “across the political spectrum” questioned the integrity of the 2016 and 2020 election results. “The success of this initiative will make it easier to vote, harder to cheat, and restore confidence in the electoral system for Republicans, Democrats and independents alike,” he said in a statement.

The Michigan Democratic Party and other groups accused the GOP of trying to confuse voters and perpetuating Trump’s lies with the ballot drive.

“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,” said chair Lavora Barnes.

In 2018, more than two thirds (66.9%) of Michigan voters approved Proposal 3, to expand voting access, including automatic voter registration, and no-excuse absentee voting.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office sent Michigan voters absentee ballot applications during elections last year, citing Proposal 3. Lawsuits were filed, but Benson’s move was deemed legal and within her authority to act under the voter-approved 2018 ballot proposal.

“Defendant’s conduct did not interfere with Michigan qualified registered voters’ rights. Ultimately, it is up to each voter to decide whether to vote in person or apply for an absentee ballot,” Judges James Redford and Jonathan Tukel wrote.

Additionally, despite several audits and investigations, there is no evidence of cheating or voter fraud in the Michigan 2020 presidential election. A GOP report released in June found “zero credibility” to claims of voter fraud in Michigan.

Michigan already has a Voter ID law. When you go to the polls to cast a ballot, you will be asked to produce photo identification. The requirements are the result of a 1996 law determined to be enforceable by the Michigan Supreme Court in 2007. There is no evidence of cheating or fraud in relation to this law.

Political divides clear in views about voter access

Following the 2020 presidential election, the divide on the topic of access to voting is even greater, driven by former President Donald Trump’s repeated lies about fraud.

A Pew Research poll in April 2021 found that the majority of U.S. adults support policies that make it easier to vote, including automatic voter registration, allowing felons to vote after serving their sentences, early voting options, making Election Day a national holiday, and requiring voter ID to vote. But there are some clear differences when split along party lines.

For example, Pew found since 2018 there has been a decline in the share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who support automatically registering all eligible citizens to vote (38% today vs. 49% in 2018).

In addition, the share of Republicans who say any voter should be allowed to vote early or absentee without a documented reason has fallen 19 percentage points (from 57% to 38%). Democrats and Democratic leaners are far more supportive of automatically registering all eligible citizens to vote (82%) and no-excuse early voting (84%); their views are virtually unchanged in recent years, Pew found.

Voter ID laws target vulnerable communities

So why is requiring an ID to vote a controversial idea? It’s because of who the law actually impacts.

About 11% of U.S. citizens don’t have government-issued identification, with reasons ranging from the inability to pay for it, to people who are unable to travel to their nearest office. Additionally, up to 25% of Black Americans of voting age don’t have ID, compared to around 8% of white Americans.

The tightening of ID laws could also impact many transgender and nonbinary voters, who do not have a form of identification that matches their gender identity.

If you’re a Michigan resident who needs ID and can’t pay for it, the state has a no-fee ID program here.

If the ballot drive is successful, it would likely take effect in the 2024 election cycle.

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.