Michigan lawmakers advanced a bill on Wednesday night that would require the state’s residents to provide identification when they vote ― a measure that could significantly reduce the number of people whose votes are counted in elections.
Current Michigan law allows residents to vote without identification if they sign an affidavit attesting to their identity. The new law would allow residents to continue to vote without identification, but their votes wouldn’t be counted unless they returned to their local clerk’s office with ID within 10 days.
The Michigan Secretary of State’s office told The Detroit News that 18,388 residents voted in the November presidential election without voter ID and signed affidavits attesting to their identities. About half of those ballots were from Wayne County, where Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won just over 66 percent of the vote. The Michigan Secretary of State’s office told The Huffington Post that no cases of fraud had been reported.
The bill includes funding that would allow residents to get the required documentation for free, but there are other costs associated with obtaining an ID, critics of the bill point out.
“While there are some provisions in the bill that intend to make it easier for indigent people to obtain photo ID, those provisions are only helpful if those individuals – who are already lacking in resources – know exactly what to do and what hoops to jump through in advance,” Merissa Kovach, a field organizer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, wrote in a blog post.
“Waiving the cost of a photo ID does not account for other significant costs that voters will have to pay, including transportation, waiting in line, time away from work or acquiring the underlying documents like a birth certificate. The practical effect of these bills will be to disenfranchise the vast majority of eligible voters who don’t have photo ID or show up on Election Day without it,” Kovach added.
The bill will now advance to the state Senate, where Republicans hold a 27-11 majority. Tom Lenard, a spokesman for state Sen. Jim Ananich, the body’s Democratic leader, said he expected the bill to be fast-tracked through the legislature’s lame duck session and pass the chamber if Republicans want to pass it.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) hasn’t indicated whether he’ll sign the bill.
“Gov. Snyder doesn’t decide whether or not he will sign a bill until he is sent the final version as passed by both chambers and has a chance to thoroughly review it,” Anna Heaton, a Snyder spokeswoman, wrote in an email.
Michigan, where President-elect Donald Trump defeated Clinton by just over 10,700 votes, was a crucial state in last month’s presidential election. A federal judge halted a recount effort in Michigan backed by Green Party candidate Jill Stein on Wednesday. Stein initiated the recount due to claims of outside interference in the election.
During and after his campaign, Trump has stoked fears of voter fraud, even though it rarely happens. Republicans have pushed for a number of voter ID bills across the country that make it more difficult for minorities and low-income Americans to vote.