Thursday, May 24, 2012

Proposed Election Laws Create Barriers to Voting


From the League of Women Voters: 

Many legitimate voters will face new hurdles to voting this year, if proposed changes to Michigan election laws pass the Legislature.  The House Redistricting and Elections Committee approved a set of bills today that regulate groups that register voters, impose stricter photo ID requirements for voters, and add a citizenship check-off box to ballot applications.  The League of Women Voters, AARP Michigan, ACLU, and several other groups oppose the pacakge of bills because they will make voting more difficult and confusing, without improving election security or integrity.
  • These changes are not necessary to ensure election integrity and will create barriers to voting.
  • The requirements placed on groups that register people to vote are excessive and will reduce registration opportunities for citizens.
  • The current methods used to verify a voter’s identity and eligibility are effective and additional requirements will not improve upon these methods.
  • Voting is a fundamental right and the Legislature should make voting more convenient and accessible for citizens, not more difficult.
New training, certification, and paperwork requirements will make it more difficult for groups such as the League to conduct registration drives, resulting in fewer opportunities for citizens to register at locations such as schools, community centers, and churches.  According to national data, Hispanic and African American voters are twice as likely as white voters to register through voter registration drives and, therefore, more likely to be adversely affected.

“Groups such as ours are simply providing a convenient opportunity for people to register,” says Susan Smith, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan.  “It doesn’t require specialized training by the Secretary of State.”

The legislation also requires photo ID for in-person voter registration and absentee voting.  Some people do not have this type of ID and may be discouraged from voting.  Elderly, minority, low-income and young adult voters are more likely than others to lack photo ID.

Michigan currently follows federal law for verifying new registrants’ identity and the voter’s signature is compared to the signature on file to confirm identity for absentee voting.  These methods work very well and there is no evidence of voter impersonation in our elections.

Even the Secretary of State acknowledges that voter fraud is not a problem.  In response to a recent audit, the Bureau of Elections said, “in every instance, where it appears that a deceased or incarcerated person voted and local records were available, a clerical error was established as the reason for the situation.”

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