Michigan House Advances Discriminatory Voter Bills

Legislation requiring photo ID targets low-income, minority voters
Thursday, December 8, 2016

LANSING — A three-bill package that will create prohibitive barriers to voting for those in vulnerable communities was voted out of the House today and now heads to the Senate. The legislation would institute a photo ID requirement at voting booths across the state.

“The ability to vote is not only a cornerstone of our democracy, it is one of our most constitutionally protected rights,” said state Rep. Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline). “Rather than enacting legislation that potentially silences voters, we should be introducing reforms that would guarantee access to secure, modern elections for all.”   

“Knowing that your voice is being heard, and that your vote is being counted, means everything to a lot of people,” said state Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo). “This bill conveys that ‘if you’re unable to meet this requirement, we don’t care about your voice, or your vote.’ To all the voters who feel this bill stacks the deck against you, know Democrats will fight for you.”

The new legislation would require a voter to provide photo ID before obtaining a ballot, a problematic requirement for those who face significant barriers to obtaining state-approved ID, including low-income families, the elderly, those in communities of color and the disabled. Despite no credible evidence that in-person voter fraud is a concern in the state, House Republicans cited “election integrity issues” as the impetus for the bills. House Democrats countered that creating obstacles to voting that would disproportionally impact certain communities would strip them of their voting rights and effectively disenfranchise them.

“This is legislation in search of a problem, except the problem isn’t clear and the solution is even murkier. That would be pointless enough, but these bills create more problems,” said state Rep. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield). “There are significant barriers for people to getting proper identification, and these bills don’t address the burdensome costs of time and money that will be incurred by some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”

“I offered an amendment that would have initiated a study to determine whether there was indeed a racial bias implicit in these bills, as many of us fear,” said state Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor). “That the amendment was defeated says a great deal about the intent of the bill.”

“The definition of discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of specific categories of people,” said state Rep. Fred Durhal III (D-Detroit), Assistant Democratic Leader. “Requiring photo identification only seems like a harmless requirement if you’re willfully ignoring that a large percentage of our citizens, for whatever reason, are unable to obtain photo ID. When you recognize that this requirement effectively prohibits people from voting, and still push it through anyway, that is discrimination in its plainest form.”