Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan governor, vetoes stricter voter ID, election bills

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LANSING, Mich. — As promised, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday vetoed Republican-sponsored legislation that would toughen in-person voter identification rules and require people to include additional information such as their driver’s license number on absentee ballot applications.

The governor said the bills would disproportionately hurt minority voters who are more likely to not have a photo ID on Election Day than white voters. They also would prohibit the secretary of state and clerks from mailing absentee ballot applications unless voters request them and ban private donations to help administer elections.

“Voting restrictions that produce such a racially disparate impact must never become law in this state,” Whitmer wrote to lawmakers.

A GOP-affiliated ballot committee is circulating petitions that would enable the Republican-controlled Legislature to still enact a similar initiative next year regardless of Whitmer’s opposition.

In Michigan, voters who go to a polling place without a photo ID can cast a regular ballot if they sign an affidavit. More than 11,400 did so in the 2020 presidential election. Under the legislation, they would get a provisional ballot and have to verify their identity with the local clerk within six days of an election for their vote to count.

The governor said the change would disenfranchise voters, and there is no evidence that affidavit ballots are related to voter fraud.

Republicans said the bills, which follow a wave of new laws in GOP-controlled states that tighten election rules, would secure voting after voters’ approval of a 2018 constitutional amendment that expanded options. They cited polling that shows Americans, including majorities of both parties, support laws requiring voters to present photo ID.

“This was an irresponsible and solely partisan response to common sense legislation that would protect our democratic system and is widely supported by Michiganders of all political stripes,” said state GOP spokesman Gustavo Portela.

One measure would eliminate a $10 fee to obtain or renew a state ID card. The fee already is waived for certain people, including the elderly, those on welfare or disability assistance, homeless people and veterans.

Like in-person voters, absentee voters would be given a provisional ballot if they did not provide their driver’s license number, state ID number or the final four digits of their Social Security number. They currently sign the application, and the signature is checked against what is on file.

Opponents said the legislation would make it harder to vote and perpetuate false claims that mass fraud enabled Democrat Joe Biden to win the presidential election.

Voter fraud is extremely rare. Michigan has charged just five people with attempted fraud in last November’s election.

“These bills are out of step with what we know Michigan voters want, a voting system that works for everyone,” said Sharon Dolente, senior adviser for Promote the Vote, which includes groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP. “Michigan law already requires voters to verify their identity prior to voting. These bills would impose a radically restrictive identity verification scheme rejected by 42 states.”

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