Michigan conservatives are pushing a voter suppression scheme the governor can't veto


GOP activists are petitioning for a ballot measure that would require ID to vote by mail, ban ballot drop boxes, and tighten signature requirements on absentee ballots.

A group of conservatives in Michigan calling themselves the Rescue Michigan Coalition is seeking to go over Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's head with a "citizen-initiated law" that would make it harder to vote in the state.

With the help of right-wing activist Adam De Angeli, who organized protests against coronavirus prevention measures in the state last year, the group released an "Election Reform Plan" this week that shows how it would ban the use of ballot drop boxes, require voters to provide a copy of their ID to cast an absentee ballot, and force clerks to review every absentee ballot signature in a public meeting, among other vote-restricting measures.

The group's petition drive comes as Michigan's Republican-controlled Senate introduced more than three dozen election-related bills on Wednesday. Some of those bills seek to create some of the same roadblocks to absentee voting as the activist-pushed law — including bills that would require ID to vote by mail and limit access to ballot drop boxes, among other things, according to Associated Press reporter David Eggert.

It's the latest in the nationwide effort by Republicans to restrict ballot access in the wake of Donald Trump's 2020 loss — which he falsely blamed on fraud and the prevalence of absentee ballots. Trump railed against absentee ballots in 2020 — despite using them himself to vote — lying about how they are rife with fraud and abuse.

However, because Whitmer is expected to veto any voter suppression bills the GOP-controlled Legislature would pass, this right-wing group is seeking to implement these restrictions using the initiative process, which is not subject to gubernatorial veto.

"Necessary reforms could be enacted by the Michigan legislature. However, given her pattern of abuse of power, we have no confidence that Governor Whitmer would sign such legislation into law and no confidence that Democrat lawmakers would vote to override her veto," the group wrote. "The only way to pass legislation against the will of a dictatorial governor is with a veto-proof Citizen-Initiated Law."

The effort comes after voters in Michigan in 2018 overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure that makes it easier to cast ballots in the state. Known as Proposal 3, the measure amended the Michigan Constitution to create automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and no-excuse absentee voting. It passed the state with 66.8% — which amounted to a whopping 33-point margin.

Democratic state lawmakers are panning efforts to suppress the vote.

"Putting road blocks in the way because you don't like who's turning out to vote, or you want to hand pick who you want to be voting, is not the American way," state Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich told the American Independent Foundation in an interview.

Ananich added that the effort is "dangerous and un-American, whether it has a chance to pass or not."

State Sen. Erika Geiss told the American Independent Foundation that Republicans are trying to pass these laws because they are "scared" that making it easier for eligible voters to cast ballots will cost them their seats.

"They are trying to cling to the shreds of power," Geiss said.

Congressional Democrats are seeking to combat the kind of voting restrictions supported by Michigan Republicans with the "For the People Act," legislation that would block states from requiring ID to vote by mail, along with a slew of other provisions meant to expand access to voting.

But congressional Republicans are against the legislation, falsely claiming that the bill is unnecessary.

In fact, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday — the same day the Michigan Republicans introduced voter suppression bills — that the Democratic legislation isn't needed because there are no efforts to suppress the vote.

"States are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever," McConnell said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.