The worst of the worst during Michigan’s lame duck – or as I like to call it: inflamed duck – sessions and this year is no exception. Last night, House Republicans rammed through two particularly heinous packages bills.
The first is one I have talked about before HERE and HERE. This three-bill package – House Bills 6066, 6067, and 6068 – forces people to show a photo ID to vote. Currently, if you don’t have your ID with you (or simply don’t have one at all), you can sign an affidavit and your vote counts. Under this new legislation, you’d have to return to the Clerk’s office within 10 days of the election to prove your identity or your vote won’t count. In Michigan, this would have impacted 18,339 people.
Far too many people, including some in the progressive realm, think this is no big deal. “You have to show photo ID for lots of other stuff,” they say. “Why should this be any different?” The fact is, for 85% or more Michiganders, it’s NOT a big deal to get ID or to take time off in the middle of a work day to go back to the Clerk’s office if you forget their ID. But for a not-insignificant number of people, getting a photo ID is much harder than you might imagine. I encourage you to listen to our interview with Ari Berman on The Sit and Spin Room podcast for some examples of this.
And, for many folks, if they forgot their ID, it can be impossible to get to the Clerk’s office within in the 10-day window. People who work days along with elderly people and those with disabilities or other transportation issues are in this category. In Washtenaw County, for example, the local County Party gave rides to the polls to nearly 100 people who couldn’t get there on their own. And those are just the people who knew about our service.
These are the folks who will be denied the right to vote.
These bills are also a solution in search of a problem:
“We are not aware of fraud related to the affidavit” option, said Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, whose office is reviewing the voter ID legislation and has not yet taken a position.
“There’s certainly no proof” that any voters who cast ballots without photo identification last month were committing fraud, but they or their peers could nonetheless face a “modern-day poll tax” under the legislation, said Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor.
Plainly put, this is nothing more than a bald-faced effort to disenfranchise groups of people who traditionally vote Democrat. Rep. Irwin spells it out:
“This is going to cause confusion. There are going to be arguments and long lines are going to get even longer, but I guess that’s the point,” said state Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor. “If we pass this bill and sign it into law, there will be properly registered voters expecting to vote who will not be able to.”
He noted that of the more than 18,000 people who voted without photo identification in November, that 39% lived in Wayne County, including 30% of Detroit residents.
“The practical effect of these bills are obvious,” Irwin said.
The package of three bills now goes to the Senate where Republicans hold a super-majority for a vote.
The second two-bill package passed last night – House bills 4630 and 4643 – is aimed at workers who have the audacity to strike. It has new punitive measures to all but silence peaceful labor protests and to make sure unions are silenced, as well:
The Michigan House of Representatives passed a pair of anti-union bills Wednesday night that make it harder for workers and unions to picket and easier for employers to hire workers to replace striking employees.
One bill would increase fines against picketers to $1,000 per person per day of a picket and $10,000 per day for an organization or union involved in the picket that is deemed to be an illegal mass picket. That bill passed on a mostly party-line vote of 57-50.
The other would repeal a law that requires employers to include information about an ongoing strike when they advertise to hire employees who will replace existing, but striking employees at a company. That bill passed on a vote of 59-48 on a mostly party line vote.
Democrats said the bill was an affront to peaceful protests and would allow companies to file complaints about pickets without showing any actual harm was done to their business.
Democratic Rep. Leslie Love of Detroit pointed out that, if this sort of law had been on the books during the civil rights movement, laws like the Civil Rights Act may never have passed.
That landmark legislation didn’t pass because we had polite protesters. We did it on buses and bridges and lunch counters. And those protesters were attacked by dogs, water hosed down. I’m deeply appalled by these bills because I grew up in a union household and my mother took me to pickets and it was always a safe environment.
These bills are also now in the hands of the Senate for their approval before being sent to Gov. Rick Snyder to sign into law.
So that’s the status of Michigan’s lame duck session so far. Stay tuned as Republicans continue to steamroll over labor, schools & teachers, voting rights, and many of the other things most Michigan residents hold dear, all in their ongoing successful effort to kneecap their opposition and consolidate their power.
And don’t forget this fact: 2016 was the third election in a row where Michigan House Democrats got more votes statewide but STILL remain in the minority in the State House. Making sure labor unions have less and less power, combined with disgusting gerrymandering every ten years, is the Republicans’ strategy and they have been executing it with astonishing success in Michigan. It’s a cautionary tale for all other states in the USA.