Michigan secretary of state: Republican attacks on voters 'embarrass all of us'

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Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said the 39 voter suppression bills state Republicans had introduced in previous months were 'un-American and anti-Democratic.'

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Wednesday slammed Republican state lawmakers' efforts to make it harder to vote, calling the more than three-dozen voter suppression bills GOP legislators had introduced "un-American and anti-Democratic."

"It's an abdication of the oath of office these leaders took to serve the people of this state," Benson tweeted following a news conference, in which she blasted the 39 bills GOP lawmakers had introduced that seek to restrict access to the ballot box.

The effort is based on lies pushed by Donald Trump during the 2020 election that the race was stolen, and his demand that voting laws be tightened over his false claims of voter fraud.

Benson added, "You don't serve the people of this state by silencing their voices. Instead, you embarrass all of us."

During the press conference, Benson, along with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, presented analysis of the voter suppression bills, noting in a tweet later, "[They have] alarming similarities to the voter suppression bills enacted or introduced in states like Georgia, Arizona, Florida, and Texas — even down to the same language."

For example, Michigan's S.B. 285 would force voters to mail a copy of their ID along with their absentee ballot application. That goes even further than the Georgia voter suppression law that's been panned by voting rights activists and major corporations, which requires voters to include an ID number rather than a physical copy of the identification with their application.

As the Washington Post noted previously, voter ID restrictions already impact marginalized communities, such as largely nonwhite, immigrant, or lower income areas, more than others. Adding additional steps, such as forcing people to copy their ID, only makes it harder and more time consuming for voters to actually cast a ballot.

Michigan's S.B. 286 also restricts the use of ballot drop boxes, including banning voters from using drop boxes "after 5 p.m. on the day before election day or on election day to return his or her absent voter ballot."

That again mimics Georgia's voter suppression law, which limits the number of ballot drop boxes that can be used per county.

Michigan's S.B. 310, meanwhile, bans the Michigan secretary of state not only from mailing absentee ballot applications, but even sending voters a link to the application online.

According to the text of the Michigan bill, "Unless an elector requests that the secretary of state send or provide an absent voter ballot application to that elector, the secretary of state is prohibited from sending or providing an absent voter ballot application to an elector. The prohibition under this subsection includes, but is not limited to, providing an absent voter ballot application or a direct link to an absent voter ballot application on the department of state website."

Ultimately, while Republicans control both chambers of Michigan's state Legislature, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is governor and would veto these bills if passed.

However, Republicans are seeking to go around Whitmer by passing a "citizen-initiated law" that includes these voter suppression tactics — but is not subject to gubernatorial veto.

It's all part of the nationwide GOP effort to make it harder to vote in the wake of Trump's loss, with hundreds of pieces of legislation making their way through state legislatures across the country.

As in other states where Republicans are either passing or looking to pass voter suppression legislation, three dozen of Michigan's largest companies have since spoken out against the GOP efforts.

"Government must support equitable access to the ballot to ensure that all eligible voters can exercise their rights," the heads of the companies — including General Motors, Ford, and all four professional sports teams in Michigan — wrote in a statement on April 13. "Government must avoid actions that reduce participation in elections — particularly among historically disenfranchised communities, persons with disabilities, older adults, racial minorities and low-income voters."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.