By: Merissa Kovach, Policy Strategist
The right to vote is at risk for many in Michigan – and your state representative is to blame. Right now, they are poised to quickly pass dangerous legislation intended to restrict and suppress access to the ballot box.
House Bills 6046, 6047, and 6048 will require virtually all voters to present photo ID before casting their ballot on Election Day, making it especially difficult for eligible voters who are poor, elderly, people of color, and disabled to vote.
Voter identification laws are a part of an ongoing strategy to roll back decades of progress on voting rights. Voter ID laws deprive many voters of their right to vote, reduce participation, and stand in direct opposition to our country’s trend of including more Americans in the democratic process.
These laws are overly burdensome and have the potential to disenfranchise tens of thousands of registered Michigan voters who do not have, and in many instances, cannot obtain or afford to obtain photo identification for voting. These voters are disproportionately low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
While there are some provisions in the bills that intend to make it easier for indigent people to obtain photo ID, those provisions are only helpful if those individuals – who are already lacking in resources – know exactly what to do and what hoops to jump through in advance.
Waiving the cost of a photo ID does not account for other significant costs that voters will have to pay, including transportation, waiting in line, time away from work or acquiring the underlying documents like a birth certificate. The practical effect of these bills will be to disenfranchise the vast majority of eligible voters who don’t have photo ID or show up on Election Day without it.
Supporters of these bills claim that voter ID laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud, but those claims are unsubstantiated and overblown. Studies have shown, time and time again, that in-person voter fraud is vanishingly rare. There is no evidence that in-person impersonation voter fraud – the only type of fraud that photo IDs could prevent – is even a minor problem. A recent study found only 31 credible allegations of voter impersonation incident since 2000, during which time over 1 billion ballots were cast in the U.S.
While many states move to modernize voting and increase access to the ballot, Michigan remains one of only a few states severely limiting the freedom of eligible citizens to register to vote and cast their ballot.
The House Elections and Ethics Committee is expected to hold a public hearing on these bills this week. Afterwards, the bills will go before the full Michigan House of Representatives. We urge you to call your lawmaker and ask them to reject voter suppression policies by casting their votes against HBs 6046, 6047, and 6048.
Rather than putting hurdles in the way of eligible voters, our lawmakers should support real solutions that would make Michigan elections more secure and modern such as online voter registration, no reason absentee voting, early voting, and same-day registration.
When people take the time and responsibility to exercise their right to vote, we need to guarantee that their votes are counted and their voices are heard.