Among the new restrictions in these bills:
- Photo ID to register: Michiganders who register to vote in person at a government agency would be forced to bring a state-issued photo ID with them. Hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents currently lack such IDs. If they don’t bring them, their application will be treated like a mail registration application, preventing them from voting absentee in the next election.
- Onerous restrictions for voter registration groups: Outside organizations like the League of Women Voters would be required to register with the state, provide the names and addresses of every volunteer who helps register voters, and force them to obtain training from the Secretary of State or election officials. It’s unclear how regularly such trainings would take place. In addition, in the last week of the voter registration period, a particularly high-volume time, groups would be required to submit any completed voter registration forms within two business days. A federal judge blocked a similar provision in Florida two weeks ago.
- New ways to disenfranchise voters: Every time voters uses an electoral form, whether it be an application or a ballot, they must check off a box affirming they are indeed a U.S. citizen. The measure is wholly unnecessary for three reasons. First, people must affirm they are citizens when they first register. Second, citizenship is not a status that changes. Finally, non-citizens are not trying to vote in the United States. The problem this measure presents is that if a voter shows any hesitation whatsoever — perhaps they aren’t a native English-speaker and didn’t understand the question — he exposes himself to an elector challenge that could ultimately invalidate his vote.
The Senate has already passed the three bills. Once discrepancies between the two chambers’ versions are ironed out, they will likely advance to Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) desk.
In a country where 40-60 percent of citizens don’t vote, the last thing we should be doing is putting up new barriers that make voting more difficult, not less.