Michigan Senate approves bill with voting restrictions
Democrats warned of longer lines in urban areas and other problems.
Republicans in the Michigan Senate on Wednesday again passed legislation that would make it harder to vote, advancing photo ID, absentee ballot and other changes that face a surefire veto from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer if they reach her desk.
The main bill, which was revised and sent to the House over Democratic opposition, is now similar to a separate Republican-backed ballot initiative that, if enough signatures are collected, can be enacted by GOP lawmakers without the governor’s veto.
The regular legislation would require prospective absentee voters to include their driver’s license number, state ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. The move is opposed by Democrats and at least some House Republicans as too cumbersome compared with an existing requirement to simply sign the application.
The bill, earlier versions of which passed in June, also would eliminate the ability of people without a photo ID to sign an affidavit and still vote in person. Instead, they would get a provisional ballot and have to verify their identity within six days of the election for it to count.
The secretary of state and local clerks would be barred from mailing unsolicited ballot applications, which Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson did last year during the coronavirus pandemic. Private funds could not be used to help pay for elections.
“We have a system here that’s secure. We have a system here that’s dependable. This is about restricting voting. It’s about making it more difficult,” said Sen. Jeff Irwin, an Ann Arbor Democrat. Democrats warned of longer lines in urban areas and other problems.
But Sen. Aric Nesbitt, a Lawton Republican, said it is “common sense” to require a photo ID and noted one is needed to rent a car, drink a beer or apply for state assistance.
“It’s not suppression,” he said.
Democratic Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. of East Lansing countered that voting is a right, unlike driving.
Republicans said the photo ID law is insufficient due to a 2018 voter-approved constitutional amendment that expanded absentee voting. People could register and vote without ever being seen in person, according to Sen. Ruth Johnson of Holly.
The majority planned to also pass two other bills, including one that would eliminate a $10 fee to obtain or renew a state ID card. The fee already is waived for certain people, including the elderly, those on welfare or disability assistance, the homeless and veterans.
When Democrats moved to adjourn before consideration of those measures, some Republican mistakenly agreed. Democratic Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, the presiding officer, quickly adjourned until Thursday.