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House Democrats continue effort to lift voter restrictions

Representative Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit)
Rick Pluta
Representative Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit)

One of the bills would allow voters who don’t have a state-issued ID to use an alternative form of identification

The state House voted along party lines Wednesday to approve a package of bills to make it easier for people to vote.

Voting rights legislation is a high priority for Democrats in their first term controlling the Legislature in decades. One of the bills up for votes this week would allow registered voters to apply online for absentee ballots. Another would allow voters who don’t have a state-issued ID to use an alternative form of identification such as a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck stub. There is also legislation to lift a ban on paying for rides to get people to the polls.

That bill was sponsored by Representative Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit), who said helping voters get a ride to the polls should not be a crime.

“We have churches. We have schools. We have that person who is that block club president that is ensuring that others are educated about voting as well as knowing where to go and to get there,” she said during the floor debate. “…This could mean I want to give that other person in my low-income community a little bit of gas money to be able to take me to the poll.”

Another one of the bills would allow spouses who live with members of the military serving overseas to vote electronically.

Republicans opposed the legislation. Representative Josh Schriver (R-Oxford) said these bills would create holes that make elections less secure.

“Our children and grandchildren will inherit an illegitimate nation unless we establish a zero-tolerance policy on election crime and get serious about holding those who break election laws accountable for their actions,” he said.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, praised the legislation in a statement released by her office. She said the bills would “keep our polling sites accessible for everyone and ensure the continued security of our absentee voting system.”

The bills now go to the state Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats.

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