The impact of voter suppression laws in Michigan and beyond
Published: July 3, 2012
"These new laws," continued MacNamara, "require photo ID and or proof of citizenship in order to vote, they restrict third-party voter registration drives, decrease early voting and eliminate Election Day registration."
In Michigan, and elsewhere, these laws are being pushed under the guise that they're needed to address the problem of voter fraud — which isn't really a problem at all.
Proponents of the voter suppression legislation will point to an audit of Michigan elections that supposedly found that 1,375 deceased individuals cast 1,381 ballots between 2008 and 2011.
However, the office of one of the people pushing hardest for the recently passed legislation — Secretary of State Ruth Johnson — discounted the findings, saying, "no voter fraud was at play," according to a story in The Detroit News. Instead, the office, which oversees the state's elections, attributed the problem to errors by local election clerks.
There is a difference between election fraud — such as the illegal purging of legitimate voters from the rolls — which has been proven to have the capacity to change the outcome of elections, and voter fraud, which is, by all legitimate accounts, a complete non-issue.
"Study after study makes clear that voter fraud is extremely rare, and impersonation fraud — the kind of fraud used to justify tighter voter ID requirements and other voting restrictions — is even rarer," Wendy Weiser, director the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, noted recently in an opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report. "You are more likely to be struck by lightning than commit impersonation fraud, according to our exhaustive research. This makes sense, because impersonation fraud is a singularly stupid crime. You can't affect an election unless you do it thousands of times, there are lots of ways to get caught, and the punishment is severe."
In a study the Brennan Center released last November, it was found that the voter-suppression legislation being enacted in Michigan and elsewhere "could make it significantly harder for more than 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
"This is the most significant cutback in voting rights in decades," Michael Waldman, the center's executive director, noted in a press release accompanying the report. "More voters may be affected than the margin of victory in two out of the past three presidential elections."
"These voting law changes are radical and completely unnecessary. They especially hurt those who have been historically locked out of our electoral system, like minorities, poor people and students. Often, they seem precisely targeted to exclude certain voters.
"After the Florida election fiasco in 2000, it became clear that the rules of election administration could affect outcomes. This time, those rules are being altered in a way that will likely hurt millions."
Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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