Michigan GOP wants to gut voting rights expansion voters just passed


Republican lawmakers in Michigan are trying to torpedo a voting-rights ballot proposal overwhelmingly approved by voters.

The Michigan GOP is taking every opportunity to use the lame-duck session to undo the will of the voters.

They've already severely weakened both the paid sick leave and minimum wage laws. Now, they're working on sabotaging expanded voting rights in the state.

Last month, Michigan voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot proposal, known in the state as the Promote the Vote initiative, which made several changes to voting in the state: It allowed for election-day registration, for voters to request absentee ballots without a reason, and for automatic registration when getting a driver's license.

Now, the GOP is pushing two separate bills through the state Senate, which, taken together, thwart the intent of the ballot measure entirely. For example, same-day registration would remain, but voters registering in the 14 days prior to the election would have an additional proof-of-residency requirement.

Additionally, automatic motor voter registration would be hobbled by a provision that state identification applications contain a designation of United States citizenship.

And, though Michigan voters clearly signaled they want to make it easier for people to register, the GOP decided it's critical to make it easier for Michigan citizens to know they can opt out of being registered — Republicans are pushing a provision that allows people to opt out of automatic voter registration, too.

Republicans say the changes voters approved are duplicative and would increase bureaucracy and regulations. "I'm not trying to keep people from voting," state Sen. Mike Kowall, who sponsored both bills, said. "I'm just trying to prevent chaos for the local clerks."

But there's no way that either of these provisions can be said to decrease bureaucratic burdens. Rather, they increase the burden on both the state and the voter by creating more work for them.

Of course, it is far more likely Republicans oppose Promote the Vote because it dramatically increased voting access. In fact, the Michigan GOP introduced three unsuccessful voter ID bills earlier this year.

Michigan voters swept progressive Democrats into statewide office and supported a ballot initiative that represented progressive views about expanding ballot access. That's a resounding rejection of what the Michigan GOP stands for — and they know it — which is why they have to resort to pushing these measures through in a lame-duck session where they can't be stopped.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.