MICHIGAN — More than 50 Democratic lawmakers left the Texas House this week in a last-ditch effort to block Republicans from passing new voting restrictions in the state.
"This is a suppression session. This is a session to suppress our voting rights," Texas Representative Trey Martinez Fischer said.
Here in Michigan, it was only a few months ago that Republican lawmakers introduced dozens of similar bills designed to crack down on voter fraud. Even though, just last month, one of the lawmakers leading those efforts admitted his investigation found no real fraud in last year’s election.
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"We consistently came up against irrefutable and demonstrable facts that repudiate the speculation and the theories," Michigan Senator Ed McBroom/R-Vulcan Township said.
Still, the push to change Michigan’s voting laws continues even over the objection of some clerks.
Clark testified before the House and the Senate about the proposed bills and says while she sees common ground with some, others deeply trouble her. For example, the slew of proposed bills that would give more rights to poll watchers, who observe voters at precincts. Clark fears it would open the door to voter intimidation.
"We have serious concerns giving freedom for a poll watcher to roam around the precinct," Clark said. "The one thing that must always be protected is secret ballot and a voter's right to mark a ballot in secrecy in the precinct."
Senate Bills 303 and 304, which narrowly passed on a party-line vote, would require that those without an ID receive a provisional ballot. It would only count if, within 6 days, the voter returns with their ID, or some other approved documentation that proves who they are.
"They’re already a legal voter in the jurisdiction, so why are we placing a second level of demand on this voter," Clark said.
Over in the House, Republican members passed their own version of the bill that would add a signature verification requirement for those voting in person. If an election worker doesn’t think your signature matches, you’d be given a provisional ballot.
"You’re looking at someone who works an election on one or two days mostly every other year, and we expect them to take the responsibility of saying yea or nay for a signature," Clark said.
Clark fears that slight differences in how someone signed their name could potentially disqualify untold numbers of legitimate voters.
"How many of you know what your signature looks like in the voter file and feel confident that an untrained worker would be able to match your signature," Michigan Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) said.
Sen. Jeremy Moss opposes the measures being pushed by Republicans including some that, so far, are still in committee like Senate Bill 286. Originally, it called for all drop boxes to be locked at 5 p.m. the day before the election. A new version would now lock them at 5 o’clock on election day.
"Doesn’t help anybody. Doesn’t make the voting easier. In fact, it hurts people who are able to go and drop off their ballot at a dropbox rather than wait in line at the polls," Moss said.
Johnson, a former Secretary of State, stresses that some bills have received strong bipartisan support like Senate Bill 302, requiring voters to attest that they won’t vote in more than one state. But as for bills requiring voter ID, she knows that Governor Whitmer has already promised to veto them. Still, she says that won’t stop Republicans from trying to make it law.
"We’ll continue to push for that and the public wants that, needs it, and deserves it," Johnson said. "Otherwise we have no systems within our systems systemically to catch cheating."