Michigan Tries to Rush Voter ID Through Lame-Duck Session

By Marissa Liebling December 6, 2016
Michigan's House of Representatives (Image: xnatedawgx, via Wikimedia Commons)
Michigan’s House of Representatives (Image: xnatedawgx, via Wikimedia Commons)

Update, 12-09-2016: The Michigan House passed the exclusive voter ID bill late Wednesday night. It will go to the Senate next week.

There are lots of December traditions: holiday shopping, spending time with loved ones, and, for Michigan lawmakers, attempting to erode the fundamental right to vote.

Last year, we reported on the Michigan’s legislatures attempt to ram through last-minute voting restrictions during the lame duck session. Now they’re at it again, despite the fact Michigan has already fallen behind other states in ensuring our elections are modern, fair, and accessible by failing to offer any type of early or no-excuse absentee voting, or even online registration.

In conjunction, House Bills 6066, 6067, 6068 would institute a strict photo ID requirement. Current law allows for both an identity affidavit exception and the acceptance of any generally recognized photo identification. The photo identification bill would now allow an exception only for indigent individuals (an undefined and exceedingly high bar). It also narrows the types of identification accepted for voting.

And it gets worse. One of the bills allows for the issuance of free identification for voting purposes, but only if the cost it utterly “prohibitive.” This is striking, given the court decisions finding that photo identification laws are discriminatory. And Wisconsin courts insisted that the state provide free identification to anyone with a reasonable impediment. (Even with this court-ordered assistance, many Wisconsin voters had to go to extraordinary lengths to get the ID they needed to exercise their constitutional rights.)

Americans shouldn’t have to jump through numerous hurdles to simply cast a vote. But that is precisely what Michigan lawmakers hope to make them do. Those lawmakers are trying to sell these new hurdles using the tired, debunked “voter fraud” scare tactic, despite offering no evidence to support it and all evidence to the contrary. In fact, the Trump campaign stated, in court filings opposing a recount, that all available evidence [in Michigan] suggests that the 2016 election “was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”

The impact of these bills is not insignificant. In neighboring Wisconsin, which has half the population of Michigan, a court found that 300,000 registered voters lacked the necessary identification. Moreover, we’ve seen that these bills cost states millions of dollars between the legal fees to defend them and the cost of implementation.

If Michigan lawmakers won’t give their citizens the gift of modernization reforms that help all voters, they should at least refrain from making the current system worse.