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Activists Question MI Voting Bills

There are concerns that bills making their way through the Michigan Legislature would restrict voting. Credit: Theresa Thompson/Flickr
There are concerns that bills making their way through the Michigan Legislature would restrict voting. Credit: Theresa Thompson/Flickr
December 9, 2015

LANSING, Mich. – A bill to eliminate straight-ticket voting making its way through the Michigan Legislature is among those frowned upon by voting rights activists.

Senate Bill 13, passed by a House committee on Tuesday, removes the option for voters to automatically cast a ballot that is either a straight Republican or Democratic ticket. It was tied to a measure that allows no-reason absentee voting to be done only in person.

Brutus resident Kathy Weidman thinks both would make it more difficult for people with physical limitations to stand in line to vote.

"Imagine the feeling one has if they're unable to stand in line long enough to exercise their right to vote," says Weidman. "It's not that it's uncomfortable for me to vote at a precinct – it is not possible for me to do so."

University of Michigan Dearborn student Teiana McGahey maintains college students would also be disenfranchised.

"It's very dangerous for young people who are coming up in this political climate to feel like they don't have a voice," says McGahey, "and to feel like their voices are being barred from our government, and policies that shape our world."

There are also concerns about SB 639, introduced last week. It would limit the weekend hours of a local Clerk of Court's office to the Saturday before an election.

Sharon Dolente, an attorney and voting rights advocate, believes both bills are moving Michigan backward.

"If they were actually interested in modernizing our elections," Dolente says, "they'd be focusing on making it more convenient to vote and not putting up additional barriers."

SB 13 moved out of House Committee on Elections with only Republican support. Its supporters argue that voters should be informed about candidates before casting a ballot. They point out that 40 states already have eliminated straight-party voting.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI