Republicans’ 2012 election strategy? If you can’t win the vote fairly, keep people from voting.

This year, a wave of legislation tightening voting restrictions has suddenly swept across the nation. All but two of the new laws were signed by Republican governors and generated by Republican legislatures. According to a study published by the Brennan Center for Justice, these new state laws could prevent more than five million Americans from casting a ballot and will disproportionately affect younger people, minorities and low-income voters. That’s a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections. And it’s no coincidence that these groups tend to vote Democratic. 

The GOP strategy is simple: Suppress the vote, win the election. Restrictive laws have already been passed in 13 states. Now Republicans are turning their sights on Michigan. Already this year, Michigan GOP legislators have introduced 10 bills modeled off of other states’ legislation to suppress the vote. 


SB751 and HB5060 – Restricting Absentee Voting

SB751 and HB5060, sponsored by Sen. David Robertson (R-Grand Blanc) and Rep. Cindy Denby (R- Handy Township), are being disguised under the veil of “no-reason absentee voting,” but don’t be fooled. While both bills would allow anyone to request an absentee ballot, they would require voters to pick up their ballot in person at their county clerk’s office. They would also require citizens to show a photo ID to get their ballot. In a recent Michigan Messenger article, Jocelyn Benson, the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State in 2010, summed it up best:

This law sets up a system of preferential treatment for voters who are able to jump through additional hoops to receive their absentee ballot, and may lead to unfounded and unwarranted suspicion of voters who are unable to jump through these hoops.

SB751 would also establish a system within the Michigan Department of State to tag voter files as “active” or “inactive.” The computerized system would tag a file as “inactive” if it detects? that a voter had moved out of the state or not voted in six years. AV ballots received by voters with inactive file tags would automatically be challenged.


SB754 – Making It Harder to Register To Vote

Sponsored by Sen. Mark Jansen (R-Gaines), this legislation is part of a series of bills that will make it harder for people to register to vote. It would make it harder for nonprofit organizations – such as religious and civic groups – to help people register by adding several burdensome, bureaucratic regulations:

  • Groups would have to register with the Michigan Department of State and provide the name and address of every person who is helping register voters in Michigan.
  • Organization leaders would have to attend a training developed by the secretary of state, and those who attend the training would have to provide the same training to the rest of the staff who are registering people to vote.
  • Any voter registration forms collected by nonprofit organizations within seven days of the voter registration deadline would have to be turned into election authorities within one business day, or they would be invalid.

Why is the GOP so fixated on throwing up irrelevant barriers to people exercising their right to vote? Don’t be fooled — this isn’t a state-by-state issue. Instead, this is a national coordinated campaign by the Koch brothers and their corporate allies at the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC) to manipulate the 2012 elections. 

It’s certainly no accident that these new laws are aimed at disenfranchising Democrats. It’s also not an accident that Republicans are targeting swing states like Michigan – which will certainly be a battleground state for the White House and control of the United States Senate.


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