While the nation‘s eyes have been on Georgia, its Governor and state legislators‘ racist effort to suppress its Black and Brown citizens’ votes, Michigan Republicans have launched a similar assault of their own on democracy. And it is aimed squarely at undermining Black, Brown, and young Michiganders’ ability to exercise their right to vote, freely.
Republican legislators who control both the Senate and House chambers are expected to begin consideration of a host of voter suppression legislation they have introduced that either restricts or otherwise complicates voters’ ability to cast votes as quickly as they did during the recent 2020 Presidential and national elections.
According to the Michigan Secretary of State‘s Office, a record of more than 5.5 million Michigan residents voted, with 3.3 million casting absentee ballots, a constitutional guarantee approved by voters in 2018 during a special referendum.
President Joe Biden defeated the twice-impeached scandal–plagued Republican incumbent, Donald Trump, in November. After winning the state by less than a percentage point over Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump lost Michigan to Biden 50.6 percent to 47.9 percent.
Trump, however, lied and claimed that he won Michigan but was cheated out of his victory by voter fraud and corruption in Detroit and Wayne County. Although his complaint was a provable, demonstrable lie, the Michigan GOP, like the GOP in Georgia and elsewhere across the country, uses it as a pretense to push forth nearly 40 voter suppression bills under the guise of protecting election integrity.
However, their critics claim it is a thinly veiled effort to hinder the ability of likely Democratic voters, particularly Black, Brown and young voters, from having a voice in the election process.
A Senate Committee is expected to debate the Republican–sponsored bills that, according to critics, would among other measures, require absentee voters to mail in a paper copy of their ID with their ballot application, shorten the deadline for returning absentee ballots, bar clerks from purchasing prepaid postage for absentee ballot return envelopes and limit the secretary of state‘s ability to help voters request an absentee ballot, require video surveillance of drop boxes for absentee ballots and allow only political parties to designate election challengers.
During a recent interview, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told MSNBC that it was a sad state of affairs that spoke more to the Republican Party‘s lack of ability to engage voters with compelling ideas and policy proposals than any purported election fraud.
“We‘re seeing one political party, a major political party in this country, try to block access to democracy as opposed to simply just engaging in a dialogue over ideas and winning the vote through that,“ she said. “I think what this also underscores is that the lies, the misinformation that we saw emerge throughout the post-election moment last year, that of course escalated into violence in the Capitol on January 6th, has now manifested itself in the outgrowth of these policies all across the states, all across the country.“
“So this is essentially a continuation of the big lie,“ Benson said.
The Detroit NAACP organized a noon rally outside the Capitol last Tuesday in opposition to the legislation. Detroit NAACP Branch President Rev. Wendell Anthony echoed Benson‘s sentiments to CNN in an earlier interview.
“This is a part of the continuous strategic treachery and seditionist activity that Republicans are engaged in around the country,” said Anthony. “We knew it was coming. We knew what they were doing in Georgia is not unique. This is part of a national strategy they have to suppress the Black and Brown vote in this country.”
“They cannot abide losing — so they have concluded, if we cannot win, let us cheat. Let us go around them. Let us suppress them. Let us take their votes away. If we cannot add to our voting rolls, let us subtract from theirs — that’s what this is about,” Anthony said.
However, Michigan Senate Republican leader Mike Shirkey tweeted that the proposed legislation is aimed at “making it easier to vote and harder to cheat.” Which is a lie.
Michigan Republicans have been endeavoring to openly suppress Black and Brown Michiganders’ votes for nearly 20 years. As far back as 2004, former Republican Senator Papageorge told the Detroit Free Press that Republicans had to “suppress“ the Detroit vote to succeed in that year‘s elections.
The Michigan ACLU and Detroit NAACP have had to sue the Republican Party or challenge the former Republican Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land and Ruth Johnson to rig the Republicans’ elections through voter suppression activities or legislation every election cycle since then.
However, this super–charged effort to make it harder to vote in Michigan follows Michigan voters‘ enthusiastic embrace of civil rights and other progressive organization‘s successful efforts to expand voting access in the state.
As the Detroit Free Press noted, in 2018, Michigan voters by a two-to-one margin approved an amendment to the state’s constitution that guarantees its voters the right to cast ballots by mail without reason, mandates same-day voter registration, and more. The amendment also includes text specifying that the new rules “shall be liberally construed in favor of voters’ rights to effectuate its purposes.”
Then, in 2020, the Democratic-backed candidates won two state Supreme Court races — flipping Michigan’s high court to a 4-3 Democratic majority.
Even as the Republicans in Michigan and across the nation continue on their furious pace to upend democratic rule, other voices are beginning to be heard in this fight for America‘s future.
This week corporate leaders of three dozen major Michigan companies, including General Motors, Ford, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Quicken Loans, issued a joint statement condemning Republican efforts to attack our democracy by suppressing the votes of fellow Americans.
In a joint statement, they said: “We represent Michigan‘s largest companies, many of which operate on a national basis. We feel a responsibility to add our voice as changes are proposed to voting laws in Michigan and other states.”
The statement set out several shared principles, including:
- The right to vote is a sacred, inviolable right of American citizens.
- Democracy is strongest when participation is greatest.
- Safe are secure options are vital
- Government must support equitable access to the ballot.
- Government must avoid actions that reduce participation in elections, particularly among historically disenfranchised communities.
- Election laws must be developed in a bipartisan fashion.
Their statement follows rising concerns in America‘s business community over Republican efforts to establish what many activists are warning is a return to some of America’s darkest days, including Jim Crow.
“These Republican legislators are trying to make Michigan in 2021 be no different than Mississippi in 1951,” said Rev. Horace Sheffield III, the pastor of New Destiny Christian Fellowship, and president of the Detroit Chapter of the National Action Network. “The only difference is they don’t want us to count the peas in pot or the number of bubbles in a bar of soap. They only thing is missing is their white sheets.”
Sheffield warned the Republican leaders don’t realize they are dealing with an explosive situation with a new generation of African Americans who are not going to take their threats to their citizenship lightly.
“They need to know they are not dealing with Negroes anymore,” he said. “They are dealing with radicalized young Blacks who are not going for that. They are not going back.”