Peters plans to go to Hell and back, touting voting rights, COVID relief funds 

By: - August 24, 2021 4:25 am

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) began his annual statewide motorcycle tour on Aug. 23, 2021 in Hell, Mich. | Allison R. Donahue

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) does believe there’s a chance in hell that Congress passes sweeping voting rights legislation that could blunt state Republican efforts across the country to restrict ballot access.

Peters kicked off his annual statewide motorcycle tour Monday in Hell, a small Livingston County town about 25 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, where he touted his work on the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the federal infrastructure deal and legislation to expand voting rights. 

“We have to [pass voting rights legislation]. It’s absolutely critical that we safeguard the ability for every American, no matter who they are or where they live, to exercise their constitutional right,” Peters told the Advance in an interview.

Peters, who was named the mayor of Hell for the day, said U.S. Senate Democrats are working on a more comprehensive version of the voting and elections bill, S.1, known as the “For the People Act.”

“S.1 doesn’t cover some of the major challenges that we face,” Peters said. “There are a number of states around the country that are putting in laws that would allow canvassers to basically overturn an election. We saw that in Michigan.”

Peters said that if it wasn’t for Board of State Canvassers member Aaron Van Langevelde, a Republican who voted with Democrats to certify the 2020 presidential election for President Joe Biden, “we could have had a real problem here.”

“We can’t allow that to happen, here in Michigan or other states, and so that is a provision that needs to go into voting rights legislation,” Peters said. “Hopefully we will have that together and be able to move it through the Senate. If we can’t get 50 votes, we may have to reassess the filibuster rule.”

Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by more than 154,000 votes in Michigan, but there were multiple attempts by his allies, including attorney Rudy Giuliani who testified at a Michigan legislative hearing, to encourage GOP officials to try and overturn the results.

Michigan Republicans this year introduced a 39-bill election reform package that restricts access to ballot drop boxes, increases voter ID requirements and more.

Peters’ first stop on his “Hell to Paradise” motorcycle tour was Screams Souvenirs from Hell and Helloween, an ice cream and souvenir shop in Hell that received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from the $1.9 trillion ARP Biden signed in March. 

“You can say the American Rescue Plan was truly a gift for Hell and our surrounding communities and towns,” said shop owner John Colone. “There’s no question this pandemic has been tough on all of us, but the American Rescue Plan has helped us keep going.”

Peters also stressed the importance of the U.S. Senate passing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, although it is currently held up while Democrats determine whether to prioritize this bill or the $3.5 trillion social policy package.  

“I hope we can find common ground to get these through,” Peters said. “It’s absolutely essential to pass the infrastructure deals to build not only the traditional infrastructure, like the roads and bridges, but the infrastructure that’s essential in the 21st century, which means human infrastructure.”

The infrastructure legislation made it through the Senate earlier this month with a 69-30 vote. Both Peters and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) voted yes.

“America’s got to be No. 1 when it comes to infrastructure. We got to be number one when it comes to employing people and having good paying jobs,” Peters said. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.

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