On Wednesday, October 6, Republicans in the Michigan Senate passed legislation once again that would make it increasingly difficult to vote with stringent requirements like a photo ID — among other things — more than likely Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, would veto, WXYZ reported.
The primary bill, slated to be revised and sent to the House over Democratic opposition, is now like a separate Republican-supported ballot action that could be enacted by GOP lawmakers without Whitmer’s veto if enough signatures are collected, according to the article.
The regular legislation would need potential absentee voters to include their driver’s license number, state ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. Democrats (along with at least some House Republicans) disagree and think it is more than what is needed — presently all that is required is signing the application.
“We have a system here that’s secure. We have a system here that’s dependable. This is about restricting voting. It’s about making it more difficult,” Sen. Jeff Irwin, an Ann Arbor Democrat, said in the article.
Michigan Democratic Black Caucus Chair Keith Williams of the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) Black Caucus (which works to elect Democrats across the state, while holding Republicans accountable across the board) said that this is just one example of many that the powers that be used to prevent minority communities from voting.
Williams, 65, talked to the Michigan Chronicle about discouraging tactics like voter suppression and how it is used to prevent people from voting and making their voice heard, which is important he said.
“If you don’t vote you don’t have a voice and you become part of the problem instead of the solution,” Williams said. “When you look around the country and see people trying to suppress the vote and they don’t want you to vote that should make you want to vote. That is why it is important to vote — people died for the right to vote. Black people, for the right to vote, people hung on trees…they put us through a lot.”
Michigan Republicans have continuously actively suppressed Black and Brown Michiganders’ votes for nearly two decades. Years earlier in 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. Even with the 2020 election, former U.S. President Donald Trump claimed that Michigan (ahem Detroit) did not count the ballots properly and legal battles (and smear campaigns from Trump) have since ensued despite the fact that Black Detroit voters helped President Joe Biden claim his spot in the Oval Office.
During a The National Newspaper Publishers Association’s Let It Be Known Facebook live event on Wednesday, October 13, Rep. Cedric Richmond, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond, spoke and said that voter suppression is not always occurring in one particular way.
“What we have to remember is voter suppression happens in several ways: one is what they are doing in the legislature– creating barriers to voting whether (with) voter ID or in other measures,” Richmond said. “The other way is to use misinformation to persuade people that voting doesn’t matter. We are seeing that more and more.”
Williams said that keeping the momentum going means getting younger people pulling up the rear.
“I truly believe we need to start them young so they get an understanding of civics — civics runs the local, state, federal government,” Williams said. “When I was in college, I voted for the first time in 1967, I was like 19 years old or 20… when I got to college my parameters and mind opened to another way of thinking.”
Voting rights are universal rights that all people should have equal access to.
“Black folks and Hispanics – we’ve been carrying elections for the last 50 years and everybody benefits from our participation,” Williams said. “This political process, human civil rights — what they’re doing… if we don’t participate, they don’t have to worry about us if we participate. They know we can win if we get out the vote.”
Williams added that voting on a local level is as important as a national level because the federal money comes down the pipeline and local governments have tax dollars used for community needs based on where voted-in politicians send those funds.
“All that stuff is important to control your destiny,” he said. “If you don’t control the power if you don’t control the government.”
“Voting is a right and we have to make it right when we vote. We can do this if we just keep our eyes on the prize.”