As the inimitable Ari Berman talked about in detail in our podcast a few weeks ago, one of the chief ways of disenfranchising poor people – particularly minorities – is to make it hard for them to vote. And one of the ways they do that is by passing laws that require a photo ID to vote on Election Day. In that podcast, Ari told the saga of one elderly Wisconsin man who, after jumping through the unnecessary hoops set up by two different states, finally gave up after having been able to vote his entire life.
Now Michigan is poised to enact this same sort of legislation which, if it becomes law, will require those without the financial means to procure a photo ID for voting purposes, to go to absurd lengths in order to obtain a free one. Current law allows voters without ID to sign an affidavit in lieu of presenting the ID.
The series of bills – House Bills 6066, 6067, and 6068 – were introduced in the State House yesterday by Republican Lisa Lyons. They were immediately assigned to the House Elections Committee where a single hearing is being held TODAY at 10:30 a.m. This hearing was scheduled by Chair Lisa Lyons at the last minute specifically to hear testimony on these three bills which are expected to be passed out of committee by the end of the week to be voted on by the full House as early as next week. It’s worth noting that Rep. Lyons, the author of the three bills as well as the Chair of the Elections Committee, was the Chair of that committee when Republicans rushed through legislation earlier this year to make it harder for citizens to put issues on the ballot or to change the state constitution. They did that just in time for this year’s election, of course, by passing it with the now legendary “immediate effect” clause.
House Bill 6066 requires people who do not have “photo identification for voting purposes” to vote with a provisional ballot. In order for their vote to be counted, they must then return to their clerk’s office within ten days of the election to show photo ID or to present “a document to establish the elector’s current residence address as provided in section 523a(5) and executing an affidavit, on a form prescribed by the secretary of state, affirming under penalty of perjury that the elector is the same individual who cast the provisional ballot on election day and is or has either of the following: (i) Indigent and attempted but was unable to obtain photo identification for voting purposes without payment of a fee. (ii) A bona fide religious objection to being photographed and does not possess a photo identification for voting purposes.”
You may be saying to yourself, “That’s not too much to ask.” But for 5-10% of Americans, obtaining the necessary documentation to obtain a photo ID is, beyond difficult (if not impossible) or unaffordable. Although House Bills 6067 and 6068 allow the state to run records checks for free if the voter is indigent, the records in some cases do not reside in Michigan. In other cases, the voter simply does not have the resources to jump through all the hoops being set up by this legislation.
In the final analysis, putting down barriers to prevent Americans from being able to vote is a blatant and disgusting way to disenfranchise poor people. African Americans and other minority groups are hit particularly hard. As has been proven time and again around the country, they are disparately impacted by this sort of heinous voter suppression. Thanks to Lisa Lyons’ efforts, Michigan will soon join the ranks of states like Wisconsin, Texas, and North Carolina that have created onerous barriers for poor people to vote to solve the nonexistent problem of voter fraud.
If you’re wondering, “What can I do?” now that the election is over, HERE is something you can do. Call your State Representative and Senator and make sure that he or she votes AGAINST all three of these disgusting pieces of voter suppression legislation. You can find your Senator HERE and your Representative HERE.
UPDATE: I am reminded by Nathan Triplett from Equality Michigan that this attack on voting access also hits the transgender community particularly hard given their difficulties in obtaining a picture ID that matches their gender.
UPDATE 2: Before you fire off an angry comment or tweet at me about why there’s no problem asking people to show a photo ID to vote, I ask that you please listen to the interview LOLGOP and I did with Ari Berman from The Nation magazine in our podcast a couple of weeks ago. You can listen to it HERE. The segment with Ari starts at the 35:00 minute mark. Please listen to it. You’ll be shocked by how big a deal this is for some folks and how it truly IS voter suppression.
UPDATE 3: As, expected, the Elections Committee, after taking a single day of testimony at an unscheduled hearing on Wednesday, proceeded to pass the bills out of committee on Thursday. It now goes to the full (Republican-led) House.