The bills, which passed in the state's Republican-led Senate on June 16, add Michigan to an increasing group of states that are tightening election measures. The vote went strictly along party lines, with every state Republican voting in favor of the trio of bills and every Democrat voting against them.
Under current Michigan law, residents who failed to produce photo identification while voting in person are still permitted to cast a ballot if they sign an affidavit at their designated voting location. In the November 3 election, more than 11,000 people cast their ballots this way.
One of the bills that recently passed in the Senate would put an end to this, with voters who lack identification being required to cast provisional ballots and confirm their identity within six days of the vote.
Another bill is focused on absentee ballots, a method of voting that is highly vulnerable to fraud. That bill would require anyone applying for an absentee ballot to provide either their driver’s license number, an official state identification number in the absence of a driver’s license, or the final four digits of their Social Security number. Currently, they are only required to return their ballot with a signature, which is then matched to signatures in a database kept by the Secretary of State.
The third bill, meanwhile, simply stipulates that any voter who is given a provisional ballot must be notified that there is a six-day requirement for verifying their identity.
The bills are widely expected to be vetoed by the state's Democrat governor Gretchen Whitmer, who has expressed opposition in the past to the bills and pledged to veto them. Nevertheless, if Republicans can get 340,000 voters to sign a petition for a ballot initiative for the three bills, they may be able to circumvent her executive authority on this matter.
Not surprisingly, Democrats are painting the bills as an attempt to dampen voter turnout rates. Democratic State Senator Erika Geiss said that the laws were a “de facto poll tax” like those used in the past to deter black people from voting. She said that voters would incur an additional cost to cast their ballot by having to submit a photocopy of their ID with their ballot, although that cost is negligible. Democrats say it should be easy to vote, but Republicans maintain that the current procedures make it easy to commit voter fraud.
Republicans say that both parties could benefit from more stringent regulations, with polls showing that most Americans do support laws requiring voters to verify their identity.
Republican State Senator Ruth Johnson pointed out that most people already have a state ID or driver’s license as citizens must also show ID for things like buying alcohol, applying for a fishing license and opening a bank account. Moreover, the state offers free IDs to many residents who need help. She said: “Requiring voters to verify their identity is the best way to protect the one person, one vote standard.”
States around the country have been taking a closer look at their election laws, particularly those that facilitate fraud. Pennsylvania Republicans proposed a measure last week to overhaul the election system there, and more stringent voter identification and mail-in ballot signature verification were key components of the bill. Their proposal would also set up a new Bureau of Election Audits agency to better monitor elections. Legislatures in Texas, Florida and Georgia have also approved similar bills despite being criticized by members of the Biden administration and the Democratic Party at large.
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