GOP-led Michigan House passes voter ID, absentee ballot restrictions

By: - October 14, 2021 4:17 pm

David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

The Michigan House of Representatives voted Thursday to concur with Senate versions of three election bills tightening requirements for absentee ballots and voter ID. 

Senate Bill 303, introduced by Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), will require in-person voters and absentee voters to present their state IDs when going to cast a ballot. Currently, you can sign an affidavit of identity if you do not have an ID. The bill will also deny election officials the ability to send unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters. SB 303 was concurred in with a vote along party lines, 56-51. 

Rep. Matt Hall (R-Battle Creek) was the first to speak on the House floor about the bills, saying they will ensure that voter confidence in elections is restored. 

“The practice of many people throughout our state getting unsolicited applications could entice people to commit fraud,” Hall said. “And for that reason, these bills will prohibit that today and will restore people’s confidence in our election.”

While Hall was the House Oversight Committee chair last year, he hosted Rudy Giuliani at a post-2020 election committee meeting where Giuliani took charge of the meeting to push election conspiracies that former President Donald Trump won. 

President Joe Biden beat Trump in Michigan by more than 154,000 votes. More than 250 state and local audits did not find evidence of widespread voting problems or fraud.

Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Twp.) later lambasted the Oversight Committee hearing featuring Giuliani, calling it a “sham hearing” that gave Giuliani and colleagues a “platform to spread Donald Trump’s lies to the American people.” He said these bills further perpetuate lies regarding the 2020 general election and that these bills will mostly harm communities of color. 

“These bills are creating more issues for voters,” Camilleri said. “[The bills are] solving problems that don’t exist and ruining faith in our democracy. And we know that the negative effects of these bills would be felt most severely by communities that already struggle with representation.” 

Rep. Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw) also spoke out against the bills, citing the U.S. history of suppressing the right to vote. He said people’s votes “shouldn’t depend on the whims of one or several untrained poll workers.” 

(The bills) are heinous, regressive, suppressive and discriminatory. … These bills chip away at the very foundation of our fundamental American rights.

– Rep. Amos O'Neal (D-Saginaw)

“We find ourselves back here, at the starting line of the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” O’Neill said. “[The bills] are heinous, regressive, suppressive and discriminatory. … These bills chip away at the very foundation of our fundamental American rights.”

Rep. Ann Bollin (R-Brighton), whose speech was interrupted halfway through by people chanting in the House gallery apparently in protest, said the bills will not work to prevent people from voting, but help people “vote secretly, independently, safely and securely.” 

“These bills will allow us a path to ensure that we have fair and free elections,” Bollin said. “These bills will restore confidence in our elections. Voters want to know that their vote will count and that they and only they are casting their own ballot.” 

The bill’s passage in the House also comes after Republicans tie-barred House Bill 5007 to SB 303. HB 5007, introduced by Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.), eliminates the $10 fee for issuing state ID cards, late renewals for a state ID or changing an address on a state ID. The bill was passed by the House along party lines. 

Berman said in a press release following the passage of the bill that strengthening ID protections will help to make elections in Michigan more secure. 

“Voter ID requirements are a popular, practical way to protect our elections against fraud,” Berman said. “Strengthening ID protections will make our elections more secure, and providing free ID will ensure our elections are accessible for every Michigan voter.”

Senate Bill 304 was also approved by the House on Thursday. The bill was originally introduced by Sen. Curtis VanderWall (R-Ludington) and allows voters who failed to show their photo ID at the ballot box six days to present a photo ID to their local clerk’s office. 

The bills will most likely be vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer vetoed voter restrictions bills earlier this month, insisting the bills were part of “calculated misinformation” regarding the 2020 election which Trump lost. 

Republicans also recently received approval to begin gathering signatures for a ballot measure that aims to restrict voting access. If the petition, led by the Secure MI Vote campaign, were to get enough signatures, the GOP-controlled Legislature could first approve the measure before it goes before voters. The initiative would not be able to be vetoed by Whitmer under Michigan law. 

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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.