Fair Elections Legal Network Joins Other Organizations in Opposing Michigan Election BillsRelease Date: November 29, 2011, 7:00 pm
Senate Election Committee Today Debates Bills That Will Erect Barriers to Voting
Washington, DC – Today, the Michigan Senate Committee on Elections debated three bills – Senate Bill 751, Senate Bill 754, and Senate Bill 803 – that amend Michigan’s election laws. The Fair Elections Legal Network joined five other voting and civil rights organizations in submitting testimony in opposition of these bills that will only create confusion, erect barriers for voters, and increase burdens and costs on local election officials.
Particularly troubling in the legislation is the onerous requirements it places on persons and organizations conducting voter registration drives. The complex process to comply with the proposed law is unnecessary and will take away resources from registering voters. Additionally, the voter registration training the legislation proposes is vague and requires an unusually tight turnaround of voter registration forms the week before the election.
“These bills are a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. We have seen in Florida how complicated voter registration drive procedures can cause civic-minded teachers to rack up hundreds of dollars in fines and non-partisan groups like the League of Women Voters have shut down voter registration operations because of onerous requirements that could lead to hefty fines placed on their volunteers,” said Robert M. Brandon, President of the Fair Elections Legal Network. “Thousands of Michiganders register to vote each election through voter registration drives. Limiting these drives will only suppress the number of eligible voters that turnout on Election Day.”
The legislation also would now require a person to present a photo ID in order to register to vote in person. The bills could also cause confusion for young voters, college students and those traveling out of state seeking work attempting to vote by absentee ballot. Absentee ballots could also be automatically challenged if they hand in their ballot without presenting photo identification.
“Only 44% of eligible voters in Michigan voted in the 2010 elections. Instead of focusing on legislation that will limit access to the ballot box in Michigan, legislators should focus on legislation that will increase access and make voting more convenient such as allowing online voter registration and Election Day registration and joining 32 other states in allowing early voting,” said Brandon. “These reforms would make voting more convenient and could increase participation in Michigan elections.”