Voting rights activists in Detroit call out GOP ‘suppression’ efforts

By: - August 11, 2021 9:55 am

Kaylee Armour and Nicole Denson at the voting rights rally in Detroit on Aug. 10, 2021 | Ken Coleman

Seven-year-old Kaylee Armour is too young to vote, but she encourages others to do so.

When asked by the Advance Tuesday if voting is important, Armour said emphatically: “Yes.”  

The Detroit resident and her mother, Nicole Denson, were part of the dozens who rallied Tuesday evening at New Center Plaza One in Detroit to speak out against Michigan GOP legislation curbing voting rights. Chanting “When we organize, we win,” the spirited group pledged to work to defend Michiganders’ right to accessible elections. The event was the final stop on a voting rights tour that included Pontiac, Flint and Grand Rapids.

“There is no other unpatriotic act than aggressively trying to suppress the vote of fellow Americans,” said Andrea Hunter, president of Detroit/Downriver A. Philip Randolph Chapter. “Especially for our seniors, who literally built this country, and our youth who are the future of our great nation! We shall not let the lives given for our right to vote be in vain!”

Groups involved in the event included: All Voting Is Local Michigan, Detroit Disability Power, Detroit/Downriver A Philip Randolph Institute, Detroit NAACP, Emgage, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Michigan Liberation, Michigan Voices, Our Own Wallstreet, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, Progress Michigan, SEIU Michigan and Vote Voiced.

In March, state Senate Republicans introduced a 39-bill voting reform package after President Joe Biden, a Democrat, won Michigan over former President Donald Trump by more than 154,000 votes. The legislation includes measures that would restrict the use of early voting drop boxes and require voters to cast their ballot with a provisional ballot if they do not have a photo ID with them at the polling station.

Similar legislation has been introduced in 47 other states.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to veto the legislation, so Republicans are also considering a citizen-led ballot drive, similar to the Unlock Michigan effort that stripped the governor of her emergency powers used to fight the spread of COVID-19. 

Under Michigan law, if a petition garners enough signatures, it goes to the Legislature for approval, which the GOP-led chambers would almost certainly do. The measure would not go to voters and Whitmer has no power to veto it.

Meanwhile, after nearly eight months of GOP lawmakers questioning the 2020 presidential election results, the Senate Oversight Committee in June issued a 35-page report concluding that there is no widespread evidence of voter fraud, despite continued right-wing claims to the contrary.

Rally attendees called the Republican-sponsored bills voter “suppression” and pointed out that more than two-thirds of Michigan voters in 2018 passed Proposal 3, a constitutional amendment expanding voting rights that allows for no-reason absentee voting, same-day voter registration, straight-ticket voting and more.

“Although Prop 3 passed in 2018, our immigrant and BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] communities need more resources to ensure they have proper access to voting. We need translated ballots, additional drop boxes, and proper voter education,” said Nada Al-Hanooti, executive director of Emgage, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering Muslim-American voters. “Denying our community this resource is simply voter suppression and passing these voter suppression laws will be detrimental to our most vulnerable families. We will fight these harmful voter suppression laws and ensure all Michiganders have a say in our democracy.”

Donna Miller, a Taylor resident, attended the rally and called on Michiganders to push back against the legislation. 

“These people might succeed and if they succeed there is a possibility that future generations may not realize that there was a time when we could all vote,” said Miller about the GOP effort. “So we must get the word out. It’s important that we continue to fight.”  

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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