A new bill is being considered by the Michigan legislature to curb voting by wage-earners, minorities and persons with disabilities. The bill, HB 4724, is described as allowing “no-reason” absentee voting, but it is a devious ploy to make absentee voting much more difficult, as is SB 13, a ban on straight-ticket voting.
Presently, a registered voter may request an absentee ballot by mail, if he or she attests that he or she will be absent from the community, is at least 60 years old, or would have a problem voting at the polls. “No reason” absentee voting sounds as if it would make voting less burdensome, but instead of being able to request a ballot by mail, the voter would be required to apply for an absentee ballot at the office of the local municipal clerk and present photo identification each time the voter wants an absentee ballot.
The chair of the Michigan House Elections Committee, Lisa “Let Them Eat Cake” Lyons, brought the bill up for hearing on Wednesday, December 2, 2015. Ms. Lyons claimed that no-reason absentee voting would help to relieve long lines at the polls. However, she repeatedly used the term “secure no-reason absentee voting,” saying that 30 states already allow some form of no-reason absentee voting. “Michigan’s will be the most secure of any of them,” she said. Voter fraud is clearly the dominant concern addressed by this bill.
This is another strand of barbed wire in the fence state legislatures are erecting around polling places to curb voting by students, minorities, persons with disabilities, and anyone else these reactionaries perceive as interested in breaking down the current corrupt power structure. Their ultimate goal would be to turn back the clock to the early 19th Century when only white male property owners were allowed to vote.
These elitists who labor to reinforce the current crony oligopoly in statehouses around the country justify their restrictive laws as necessary to prevent voter fraud. That is like installing stadium lights throughout the town to avoid darkness during solar eclipses or lining Georgia highways with snow fences. There is almost zero incidence of voter fraud in 21st Century America.
One or more of the following: strict voter identification laws, curtailment of early and absentee voting, restrictions on the number of polling stations, and impediments to registration have been enacted in most states. Just since 2010 vote suppression laws have been enacted in 21 states, from Alabama to Wisconsin.
Pennsylvania passed a strict voter photographic identification requirement shortly before the 2012 general election. It was struck down in 2014 as an impermissible burden on the right to vote because upwards of a half million voters who lacked photographic identification cards would find it difficult, if not impossible, to visit the limited number of driver’s licensing centers and satisfy the documentation requirements. It is shameful that judges in other states are apparently unconcerned about restrictions on the right to vote.
Michigan’s legislature is also considering a law to eliminate straight-ticket voting because of a perception that voters of the minority party are more likely to vote that way. This change would cause voters to spend more time in the polling booth and lengthen wait times at the polls, creating a further impediment to voting for wage-earners and the disabled.
Recognize this disenfranchisement of us ordinary folk for what it is. The requirement that voters produce photographic identification has nothing to do with voter fraud. The biggest election problem in this country is not that too many ineligible voters are trying to cast ballots. It is that too few eligible voters actually vote. Elitists in state legislatures want to make it as difficult as possible for people who have to take time off work, for people with disabilities, and for adults with low income to make their voices heard.
As difficult as it is for the rest of us to register and vote, we must do so. We need to weed the anti-populist politicians out of our state government and restore power to the people.
John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
©2015 John B. Payne, Attorney