The Michigan House of Representatives passed a strict new set of voter ID rules on Dec. 7. If the proposal becomes law, state Democrats warn that minorities and low-income voters will be disproportionately affected.
The Republican-led House voted to require Michigan residents to bring photo identification to their polling stations to be eligible to vote. Those who do not will be able to cast a provisional ballot, but must then bring a photo ID to their local clerk’s office within 10 days of the vote to have the ballot count.
Republican state Rep. Gary Glenn said the bill is to “protect the integrity of every single Michigan citizen’s vote, because every vote is diluted if fraudulent votes are cast,” reports The Detroit News.
“There’s certainly no proof” of fraudulent votes, Democratic state Rep. Jeff Irwin retorted. He added that the proposal is equivalent to a “modern-day poll tax.”
“This is going to cause confusion and chaos at the polls,” he continued. “There’s going to be arguments, voters aren’t going to understand, and long lines are going to get even longer. Maybe that’s the point.”
Ruth Johnson, Michigan's Republican Secretary of State, further affirmed that she was “not aware of fraud related to" the affidavit signed by voters in the state without IDs at their polling station, notes Talking Points Memo.
“The 15th Amendment to the Constitution had prohibited racialized denial of the vote for nearly a century, so white Southerners dreamed up other barriers designed to keep blacks from the booth,” Stephen Henderson wrote in August for the Detroit Free Press. “It was that way until … in 1965 Congress passed the Voting Rights Act to strengthen the 15th Amendment, and clamp down on race-based voter discrimination.”
In January 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a central tenet of the Voting Rights Act that requires several states to receive federal approval to any election laws, notes The New York Times.
But Michigan House Republicans say the bill is for the protection of voters and the integrity of the vote.
“We want everyone to be able to vote easily, but we want them to know their vote is being protected,” Republican Rep. Lisa Lyons said. “This legislation is simple: In order to have your vote count, you must prove you are who you say you are ... [this bill will] deter and detect fraud, however widespread it may or may not be.”