Republicans are using a loophole to declare war on voting rights in Michigan — despite its Democratic governor

Republicans are using a loophole to declare war on voting rights in Michigan — despite its Democratic governor

Many of the states where Republicans are aggressively pushing voter suppression bills have Republican governors who are likely to sign them into law if they are passed, including Texas (Gov. Greg Abbott) and Arizona (Gov. Doug Ducey). In Michigan, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is likely to veto any voter suppression bills passed by Republicans in the state legislature, but Guardian reporters Sam Levine and Tom Perkins — in an article published on April 26 — warn that the Michigan GOP is hoping to find a way around that.

"Even though the Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is likely to veto a package of dozens of pending bills to curb voter access, Republicans are already hinting they will use a loophole to implement the measures anyway," Levine and Perkins explain. "They can take advantage of a quirk in Michigan's law allowing voters to send a bill to the legislature if just over 340,000 voters sign a petition asking them to take it up. These kinds of bills cannot be vetoed by the governor."

Levine and Perkins note how bad the voter suppression measures being proposed in Michigan are, observing, "The proposals include measures that are breathtakingly restrictive, even when held up in comparison to other measures states are considering. One bill bans Michigan's secretary of state not only from mailing out absentee ballot applications to all voters, but also, blocks her from even providing a link on a state website to a mail-in ballot application. Another proposal does not allow voters to use absentee ballot drop boxes after 5 p.m. the day before Election Day. A different measure would require voters to make a photocopy of their ID and mail it in to vote by mail."

In 2018, the year in which Whitmer was elected governor, Michigan voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that expands voting by mail in the state — and Republicans are doing everything they can to undermine that.

Jocelyn Benson, Michigan's Democratic secretary of state, told The Guardian, "This effort is particularly anti-democratic not just in substance, but in procedure…. What you have here is legislators, elected through gerrymandered districts, using that power and those seats to reach out to a very small, small portion of Michigan registered voters and use them to justify overturning the will of millions of Michigan citizens who quite clearly want these policies in place and who quite clearly oppose the very policies that the Republicans are promoting."

Nonetheless, Benson is hoping that Michigan will serve as a role model in how to defeat voter suppression — in contrast to Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp recently singed into law a bill that attacks voting rights in a variety of ways. Georgia's so-called Election Integrity Act of 2021 makes absentee voting much more difficult and even makes it a crime to give food or water to someone waiting in line to vote.

Benson told The Guardian, "If we can overcome this attack on our freedom to vote — and we have many pieces in place to do that — we can be a story of that as opposed to the Georgia story. The actions we take now will set the stage for what is attempted in the future."

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