Michigan Senate Backs Away from Tougher Voter ID Requirement

Michigan Senate Backs Away from Tougher Voter ID Requirement

Michigan senators, under pressure from Common Cause activists, have dropped a plan to toughen the state's voter ID law.

But Court Upholds Unneeded Virginia Law

There’s good news from Michigan and a bit of bad from Virginia today in “the Voting Wars,” University of California, Irvine Prof. Rick Hasen’s moniker for the ongoing battle over who gets to vote in America and the requirements prospective voters must satisfy in order to cast our ballots.

The Michigan news comes out of the state Senate, whose leaders have decided not to take up an ill-advised package of voter ID bills sent their way by the House in the waning days of the legislature’s lame duck session.

The bills “would have disenfranchised thousands of voters who cannot readily produce a government issued ID or birth certificate,” Common Cause Michigan said in a statement praising the decision. “These bills would have done nothing to protect voting integrity and would have hit seniors, the disabled, students, and people of color particularly hard.   We should never be making it harder to vote in Michigan.”

Nearly 1,800 Common Cause Michigan activists called and/or emailed senators with pleas that they reject the ID bills. Their success bucks a national trend which has seen voter ID laws and other measures making it more difficult to cast a vote breeze through Republican-controlled legislatures since the Supreme Court overturned major portions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Those bills have advanced despite an absence of evidence that voter fraud is a significant problem in U.S. elections or that the ID requirements will be effective against what little fraud exists.

The Michigan legislation would have toughened a voter ID law already on the books by requiring registered voters who forget to bring photo ID to the polls on Election Day to cast a provisional ballot that wouldn’t be counted until the voter came to their local clerk’s office to prove their identity.

The Supreme Court has affirmed that states have authority to impose ID requirements, leaving lower courts to decide how stringent those rules should be. The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a legal challenge to Virginia’s voter ID law on Tuesday, declaring that there was no evidence the state passed it with an intent to discriminate.

Legal questions aside, the decision “discounts the reality of the hardships that voters with disabilities encounter, and ignores that many other vulnerable groups of people lack ID or the means to obtain one,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Virginia.

Lawyers for the Virginia Democratic Party, which filed the legal challenge, said they’re considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Richmond-based 4th Circuit is the same court that with a different set of judges struck down a North Carolina voter ID law earlier this year. The judges in that case said the NC legislature worked with “almost surgical precision” to suppress the votes of African-Americans.