Michigan House GOP votes to 'undermine' recently approved voting access expansion

click to enlarge Michigan House GOP votes to 'undermine' recently approved voting access expansion
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The Republican-controlled state House on Thursday night approved proposed laws that critics say will undermine the voting access expansion approved by voters in November.

The implementation bill received no support from Democrats in the estate House or Senate, and the next go for SB 1238-1242 is Gov. Rick Snyder's desk for a signature or veto. Some of the more controversial parts of the bills that passed the Senate were left out of the bills that the House approved.

"I voted no on SB 1238," Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Chang tweeted on Thursday after the vote. "Michiganders voted overwhelmingly to expand voting rights by passing Proposal 3 in November. SB 1238-42 undermine will of the people and the intent of Proposal 3 and restricts where/when voters can register w/in 30 days of election."

The Promote the Vote ballot proposal passed 67-33 percent on Nov. 6 and, among other provisions, would allow the state to automatically register a resident to vote when they update a driver’s license or state identification card; allow straight ticket voting; allow residents to register to vote through Election Day; and permit no-reason absentee voting during the 40 days before an election.

Sharon Dolente, a voting rights expert for the ACLU of Michigan, which drafted Proposal 3, says there are some conflicts between parts of the Republican implementation bill and Proposal 3, and there are some parts of the proposal that weren't addressed by the bill.

"There's still work to do, so if at the end of that work there are conflicts between what Prop 3 provides and [GOP implementation bills], then we'll have to look at ways to address that, but it doesn't necessarily involve litigation," she says.

Among current points of conflict between Proposal 3 and the GOP-approved implementation legislation is a rule that would require those who want to register on Election Day to go to the city clerk's office to register. It can be far more difficult for low-income voters in larger cities to get to a clerk's office than it is for them to go to a polling station that's near their home, or a satellite office. Dolente notes that some clerk's offices aren't set up to handle an Election Day registration.

Dolente also says Proposal 3 gave local clerks the authority to add extra locations and hours to handle absentee voting. GOP changes strip that authority and require clerks to seek approval from a city council or township board.

Democrats called the changes "voter suppression tactics."

"The people of Michigan made it clear that they want more accessibility in the election process, not more obstacles," Democratic Rep. Christine Greig said before the vote.

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