This week the Republicans in the Michigan House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 13, a bill that would eliminate the option of straight-ticket voting on Michigan ballots. While they claim it’s to make us all “more responsible” voters, the obvious intent is to make it just that more difficult to vote in Michigan. In fact, Progress Michigan recently showed how it will take voters who would normally choose this method as much as as much as a minute and a half longer to vote. Multiplied by the 4,800 precincts in Michigan and you can see how this has to potential to increase lines and discourage voters.
The bill has a $5 million appropriation in it “to purchase voting equipment to implement the elimination of straight party ticket voting.” That amounts to just $1,041 per precinct. To give you an idea of just how inadequate that is, the Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum has requested over $1 million to upgrade her office’s voting equipment. In other words, this appropriation is nothing more than a way to make the legislation “democracy-proof” by preventing voters from overturning it by referendum as they have done TWICE in the past when they overturned similar laws passed in 1964 and 2001.
However, Republicans have tie-barred the ban on straight-ticket voting to Republican Rep. Lisa Lyons’ bill to allow for “no-excuse” absentee ballot voting. She sees this as a way to help alleviate the longer lines that are sure to occur from the elimination of the straight ticket option. It’s worth noting that her legislation doesn’t allow you to sign up to have an absentee ballot sent to you in the mail if you are going the “no-excuse” route. You’d still have to show up at your Clerk’s office and show a picture ID, something you do not need to do if you have an excuse and have voted absentee in the past.
Lyons’ bill, however, makes voting too easy for some Senate Republicans and they may refuse to support S.B. 13 because of it:
The link with no-reason absentee voting squeezed the bill through the House but is problematic in the Senate, where it’s under consideration next week. The Senate GOP caucus, headed by Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof of West Olive, remains frosty on expanded absentee voting.
Meekhof spokeswoman Amber McCann told reporters the majority leader would prefer to keep the bills separate.
When you are afraid of making voting easy, as S.B. 13 sponsor Marty Knollenberg is, you might want to stop pretending you care about democracy, particularly when you add an inadequate appropriation to the bill to keep voters from overturning it (again.) That goes for Dave (“I believe voting should not be effortless”) Robertson, too, who has introduced other legislation to make voting even more difficult.
This tactic of putting in appropriations to stop voters from having a say is not new to the current cohort of Republicans, by the way.
They did it with the latest Emergency Manager law which was passed less than a month after voters got rid of the previous Emergency Manager Law.
They did it with $1 million appropriation when they passed the law that turned Michigan into a Right to Work state.
They did it with a $30,000 appropriation when they redistricted and heavily gerrymandered our state in 2011.
They are trying to do it with a $75,000 appropriation in the bill that would overturn our prevailing wage laws that helps keep wages up for Michigan workers.
They tried to do it with a $75,000 appropriation in a bill to reform our no-fault insurance laws to make them more friendly toward insurance companies.
That’s not democracy and it’s un-American.