Justice

Michigan Considers Major New Restrictions On Voting Rights

This is the first installment in an ongoing series on voting rights leading up to Election Day 2011.

Michigan may soon join states like Florida and Tennessee in implementing major new voting rights restrictions.

A new bill designed to make registering voters more difficult is currently working its way through the Republican-controlled legislature. As Project Vote details, SB 754 would put new regulations in place to require photo ID in order to register, create new restrictions on nonprofit organizations who register voters, and undercut voter registration drives by requiring completed registration forms to be submitted with 24 hours when the election is nearing:

First, SB 754 requires people trying to register at a government agency to bring state-issued photo ID with them. If they do not, their application will be treated like a mail registration.

Second, the bill creates numerous burdensome and irrelevant bureaucratic rules for nonprofit organizations engaged in voter registration efforts in Michigan. For example, a group would have to register with the Department of State and provide voluminous information, including the name and address of every agent of the organization who is helping to register voters in Michigan. Any changes in the information they submit must be reported promptly to the Department of State as well. […]

Finally, any voter registration form collected by the organization within seven days of an election must be turned in to the election authorities within one business day. The combined effect of these requirements is that small nonprofits that help to register voters—such as religious organizations, civic groups, and the League of Women Voters—are forced to spend valuable staff time keeping up with onerous paperwork requirements and complying with unreasonable deadlines instead.

On the last provision, Michigan would go even further than Florida’s new onerous restrictions, where people conducting voter registration drives are now allowed just 48 hours to turn in completed forms. Estelle Rogers of Project Vote told ThinkProgress that Michigan’s proposed 24-hour submission window is “the worst turnaround time we’ve ever seen.”

As ThinkProgress has detailed, new voting rights restrictions like we may soon see in Michigan have popped up in states across the country this year. From Florida to Texas to Maine and elsewhere, Republican-controlled states have enacted major new legislation curbing voter registration rights, attacking the Voting Rights Act, disenfranchising millions with photo ID requirements, and repealing election day registration laws.