It’s been a good news day for my homestate of Michigan.
First of all, Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a handfull of bills passed by the Michigan House and Senate that would have created new restrictions for voters and people organizing voter registration drives.
More on that in a minute.
Before I go on to discuss that in detail, I just also wanted to mention that GM released numbers today showing sales up 16% over this time last year. Chrysler also had good numbers to report. June saw a 20% increase over a year ago according to the article released on MLive this morning.
So an indisputably good day for the Mitten.
Back to the “voter suppression” bills that the Governor vetoed today.
First of all, I think I’d just like to say that there is nothing unreasonable about having to show photo ID when you vote. I think that that’s a pretty fair thing to be asked to do when you take voting as seriously as I do as part of your civic duty.
However, when you take voting seriously as part of your civic duty, you don’t want to disenfranchise people and so I’m pleased that Governor Snyder vetoed the bill today. The Michigan House acted disgracefully in passing the bill back in June when they forced through the bill without a roll call vote, claiming the 2/3 majority needed for its passage and immediate implementation even though they only had 66 votes as it turns out rather than the 73 needed. Without a 2/3 majority, a bill cannot be implemented immediately and a waiting period is required before enforcement can begin.
What would that have meant?
That would have meant, if the Michigan House GOP had gotten its way, that the new voter ID laws would’ve gone into effect now, a mere four months before a hugely contentious presidential election in which Michigan is one of the key states in play as Mitt Romney’s birthplace. Four months before any election is not the appropriate time to implement these sorts of changes because of the confusion they would create among voters; Governor Snyder himself cited this when explaining his veto.
But you say that everyone already has a photo ID anyways. What’s the big deal? The Secretary of State in Michigan claims that 99.5% of registered voters already have some form of ID. Let’s suppose that’s true. In 2008, 5,000,000 people voted in the presidential election. Half of a percentage point comes out to 25,000 people – or the size of a small city. That’s bigger than Walker, Michigan. That’s a bigger number than Norton Shores and Romulus. That’s bigger than Kalamazoo Charter Township and Marquette.
So you can’t say that 25,000 people is nothing, can you?
Let’s compare it to the numbers cited by Republicans seeking to enact these laws. According to a state audit released in May, somewhere around 1,300 instances of voter fraud occurred over a three year span.
Can changes be made to voter ID laws to improve the process? Yes. Is there a need for these new changes? According to an article from the Detroit Free Press, it’s unclear if all 1,300 instances of voter fraud that were discovered were people actually trying to vote under someone else’s identity.
What is clear is that such changes ought to be made in a more professional way, not only with better timing for the sake of clarity and inclusion, but also with respect for the Michigan constitution and the proper procedure. Approaching this from a strictly utilitarian point-of-view, let’s not alienate potentially over 25,000 people who might otherwise vote because Michigan Republicans have really bad timing. (The number of people disenfranchised by this would actually be higher since the state only had a 2/3 voter turnout in 2008 and the Secretary of State said that 99.5% of people registered to vote have ID – so the number could be somewhere around 36,000 people.)
Reducing our politics to pointing the finger at the other party and saying “They treated us worse when they were in power!” makes a joke out of the political process. This is effectively what the Republican majority in the Michigan House has claimed as their excuse for denying these sorts of roll call votes.
Sooner or later, people might wake up and realize this. Then we won’t need bills aimed at voter suppression because the people won’t give a damn any more.
But for today: Bravo, Mr. Snyder. The country could use more free-thinking, independent minded leaders as yourself.