And what you can do about it
Why would Michigan’s Republicans pass a law that eliminates straight-ticket voting, a law twice rejected by voters, without allowing all Michiganders access to absentee ballots that would allow us the time to consider the many new choices we’ll be making at the polls?
It’s about hopelessness, Rep. Brenda Lawrence said at a Voting Rights Forum in Detroit on Tuesday evening convened by the Dean of the House — Rep. John Conyers.
Just filling in the multiple bubbles alone is likely to increase the time it takes to vote by seconds that will quickly add up to minutes and then hours. Obviously, anything that makes it harder and more time-consuming to vote increases the likelihood that voters will just stay home or — even worse — leave before they vote. Long lines that disproportionately affected likely Democratic voters in Ohio and may have even cost John Kerry the 2004 election.
African-Americans are already likely to spend twice as long in line for a ballot as white voters and have been known to wait hours in Detroit to vote during presidential elections. But the GOP’s latest abomination to democracy isn’t just about increasing Republican chances in down-ballot elections — though it will definitely do that — it’s part of vast and interconnected strategy of that robs the state’s black voters of hope.
They do it by disenfranchising more than half of the state’s African-American population through emergency manager laws. They do it by turning the city of Detroit’s failing schools into a piggy bank for education profiteers. And they do it by literally poisoning the kids of Flint to save a few bucks.
But they do it most directly by just making it a giant pain in the ass to vote. Voter suppression — even before the Voting Rights Act — almost never takes the form of outright bans. It’s the accumulated weight bureaucracy and inconvenience that keeps even the most dedicated voters away from the polls.
At the forum, The Nation‘s Ari Berman told the story of the nightmare one Wisconsinite has gone through thanks to the state’s completely unnecessary voter ID law:
Eddie Lee Holloway Jr., a 58-year-old African American who had moved from Illinois to Milwaukee, brought his expired Illinois photo ID, birth certificate, and Social Security card to get a photo ID for voting, but the DMV rejected his application because his birth certificate read “Eddie Junior Holloway,” the result of a clerical error. Holloway spent $200 on a bus ticket to Illinois to try to amend his birth certificate and made seven trips to government agencies in two different states, but he still couldn’t vote in the Wisconsin primary.
Voting rights are the most important and the least discussed issue of 2016, Berman said Tuesday. It’s the right all the others flow from. And this is the first presidential election in 50 years that’s taking place without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act.
By taking away “the right to vote for all the candidates of a single political party with one mark on a ballot,” as our Chris Savage called it, Republicans are counting on hopelessness to keep a blue wave from taking away the near monopoly they’ve had on state power since 2010.
What can you do to fight back — besides registering and voting no matter what?
Michael J. Steinberg of the Michigan ACLU recommended the following as short-term solutions:
- Get an absentee ballot if you’re 60 or older, or meet the other requirements.
- Get to know the ballot at home.
Of course, the easiest way to cut your time waiting to vote is to be white and Republican. Then this state’s government will make your experience as easy as possible.
Know any Michigan college students? Send them to this site ASAP.
And remember, you will be asked for your photo ID and should have it to speed up the process — but you can still vote without it.
For long-term solutions, we should look at what Oregon has accomplished with automatic registration and mail-in voting. It’s the recipe for giving all voters hope, which is why it’s the Michigan GOP’s worst nightmare.
[Image credit: BadgeMonkey via Flickr.]