LANSING — Three bills to increase voter photo identification requirements passed narrowly through the House and are on their way to the Senate.

Under this package, voters without an ID at the time of voting would fill out a provisional ballot. It would be valid only if the voter returns to the clerk within 10 days to either show an ID or provide evidence of why they can’t have one. That might include religious reasons or an inability to afford one.

Current law requires registered voters without a voter ID to fill out an affidavit attesting to their identity. They can then vote.

The bills are controversial. Even some Republicans went off party lines to vote against them.

“I believe that in the United States, your signature should be satisfactory for you to vote,” said Rep. Edward Canfield, R-Sebewaing, who voted against the bills.

“A voter should be able to vote conveniently, if registered, with their signature,” Canfield continued. “Although I don’t have a problem with ID rules, I don’t agree with the requirement.”

Rep. Martin Howrylak, R-Troy, concurred.

“We have the right to vote. We should not have to go to the polls to prove who we are,” Howrylak said. “You’re pretty much guilty until proven innocent, which isn’t fair,.”

The bills don’t just include new laws for proving who voters are. They would also provide a means for low-income citizens to acquire a limited, free voter ID card — or a free birth certificate so that they can get an ID. These would not be state identification cards that stand in for driver’s licenses at airports and border crossings, but would be special voting identification cards, good only for voting.

According to a House Fiscal Agency report, $10 million would be appropriated to the Department of State for “election modernization, voter education and implementation of the voter ID provisions.”

“The state will now be paying for indigent folks to get an ID, so there’s really no reason for anyone to not have an ID any longer,” Canfield said.

Howrylak doesn’t oppose the voter ID cards.

“The first bill was the issue for me, not the other ones,” Howrylak said.“There should never be undue burdens for people to vote.”

Merissa Kovach, a policy strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union, says the group is against all three voter ID bills.

“We’re opposed to the whole package because there are caveats when it comes to the free IDs,” Kovach said. “The state would now be required to provide IDs to already-vulnerable communities, the poor, the elderly. This is also only helpful if they know exactly what hoops to jump through to get the IDs.”

Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, said the only reason the Legislature passed the measures was to disenfranchise voters.

“Eighteen thousand people voted through signing an affidavit this election according to the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State said there was no fraud,” Singh said. “Republicans wanted to make it harder for more people to vote. They want to disenfranchise those 18,000 citizens, who are mostly senior citizens or those living in poverty.”

“The law on the books is already working. This wasn’t about policies or to solve problems, this was to very intentionally disenfranchise voters who will most likely vote Democrat,” Singh said.

By CAITLIN DeLUCA, Capital News Service


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