by P.D. Lesko
ThinkProgress, Progress Michigan, and just about every politically progressive organization in Michigan have been holding their collective breath while sending out scads of mass emails urging Michigan voters to urge Governor Snyder to urge the members of his own state Republican party to go pound sand and quit trying to suppress the vote.
HB 5061 and SB 754 and 803 are straight out of the (American Legislative Exchange Council) ALEC playbook. ThinkProgress, in an April 2012 post, explains:
How is ALEC working to suppress the vote?
Model legislation proposed by ALEC has been a key factor in the wave of voter suppression laws both introduced and passed in the last year in states as diverse as Texas, Wisconsin, and Florida. Conservatives are using a variety of tactics to suppress the vote:
- Restrictive voter ID requirements (1 in 10 voters — more than 20 million Americans — lack such IDs)
- Residency restrictions, often used to intimidate students
- Dramatically curtailments of early voting
- Laws that game the electoral college votes in various states
- Laws that make it all but impossible for mass voter registration drives to occur
Taken together, these measures sweeping the states stand to disenfranchise millions of Americans.
The idea is to make it tougher for the groups that typically vote Democratic to exercise their right to do so. The fake action legislation was passed under the guise of cutting down on Michigan’s voter fraud. There was just one niggling problem: Michigan doesn’t currently have, nor has the state ever had a significant problem with voter fraud. As I wrote for the Huffington Post in February of 2012:
Judging from the number of bills Michigan GOP members pushed through the state Senate on Feb. 14, 2012, one could be led to believe that voter fraud in Michigan is a problem of epidemic proportions. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
In a 2004 federal court ruling, Judge David Lawson concluded that there was no evidence of voter fraud in Michigan:
Preventing election fraud and preserving the ‘purity of the ballot box’ certainly is a legitimate state interest. However, Michigan enjoys an election history that is relatively fraud-free. In 1997, Michigan’s attorney general stated that ‘as the chief law enforcement official of the State of Michigan, I am not aware of any substantial voter fraud in Michigan’s elections. I have not received complaints regarding voter fraud. Moreover, the state’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Candice Miller, confirmed the fact that Michigan does not have a voter fraud problem when she stated: ‘We have no real evidence of voter fraud in Michigan. Michigan has historically had very clean elections.’
In 2010, the now defunct Michigan Messenger contacted county and state election officials and found none who could recall even a single incident of actual voter fraud in the state of Michigan. That includes elections officials in Oakland County, where Ruth Johnson was the clerk before being elected secretary of state. The spokesperson for the office she currently holds told the Messenger, “If you’re talking about actual in-person voting at the polls as opposed to bad registration cards, I’d have to say no. I’m happy to say we’re a very clean state.”
On July 3, 2012, Snyder vetoed three of the four bills sent to him relating to the GOP assault on Michigan’s voter laws. As a result, the Guv got a big smooch from an unlikely corner of the political room. Progress Michigan’s new Executive Director Zach Pohl showed some class when he issued this statement:
LANSING – Today Progress Michigan Executive Director Zack Pohl released the following statement in response to Gov. Snyder’s veto of HB 5061 and SB 754 and 803:
“Gov. Snyder deserves credit for finally doing something truly tough as governor, by standing up to the extreme forces in his own party who are committed to suppressing the vote this November. It’s refreshing to see a Republican governor do the right thing by opposing this unfair and undemocratic legislation. Now it’s time for Ruth Johnson and Lansing Republicans to abandon their voter suppression agenda, and start focusing on expanding access to voting.”
Snyder does deserve credit for vetoing the three bills. It’s a move that’s not going to endear him to Republicans on the national stage who are looking at Michigan as a very important swing state in November, along with Wisconsin, Florida and Pennsylvania—all of which have Republican governors who won in 2010. The idea is that the Republican governors will use their political contacts and infrastructure to work for Mitt Romney. In Michigan, this will be very interesting, as Snyder won with the help of many of his Democrat friends, including many in Ann Arbor. Will we see Ann Arbor Dems for Romney come November? More likely, we’ll see local, Washtenaw county and state Dems who don’t come out strong for President Obama between now and the November 2012 election.
In the meantime, at least Michigan will not join the many other states that have passed similar voter suppression laws. MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow probably won’t have anything nice to say on the subject. No one expects her to quit pounding Snyder and the Michigan GOP. However, Progress Michigan just took a meaningful step toward credible progressive politics in our state by honestly recognizing Rick Snyder for doing what’s right for Michigan’s voters.