Voter ID bills surface in Michigan’s lame-duck session

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — A new House bill would require voters who show up at the polls without photo identification to cast a provisional ballot that could be tossed if they don’t prove their identity within 10 days after an election.

The House Elections Committee heard testimony Wednesday about a three-bill package introduced on Tuesday that would enforce a stricter voter ID law at the polls for registered voters to get a ballot that ultimately counts.

“It should be easy to vote. It should not be easy to cheat,” said state Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, a Republican from Alto who is sponsoring the bills.

Under current law, voters who come to a polling precinct without a form of photo ID have to sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury attesting to their identity.

“We don’t know if they are who they say they are,” Lyons said of voters who sign affidavits at the polls. “As we’ve experienced in several elections here in Michigan, every vote counts.”

Lyons’ bill would allow the voters to get a provisional ballot without identification, but then require them to go to their local clerk’s office within 10 days and show the clerk their photo ID with their address.

For the ballot to be counted, voters also would be required to sign an affidavit affirming they were the same person who cast a provisional ballot on Election Day, according to House Bill 6066.

The bill has an exemption for indigent voters to sign an affidavit within the 10-day window that they were not able to obtain a photo ID “without payment of a fee” or secure a record of their birth needed to get a government-issued ID card.

“If they are indigent and they’ve made an attempt unsuccessfully for an ID, then they would come in and sign their affidavit to ... have their ballot tabulated,” said Lyons, who was elected Kent County clerk earlier this month.

The bill also contains an exemption for voters who have a “bona fide religious objection to being photographed” and does not have a photo ID for voting purposes.

Democrats and liberal groups testified in opposition Wednesday to the legislation, which Lyons introduced on Tuesday, the first day of the Legislature’s three-week lame-duck session.

“The practical effect of this is many people will not be able to exercise their right to vote — and that’s a problem,” said Merissa Kovach, policy strategist for the American Civil Liberty Union of Michigan.

Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, argued the bills are designed to get “fewer people voting” for Democrats.

“That’s not what (Lyons) is saying, but that’s the impact of the bill,” Hoadley said. “So we should call the bill what it is.”

Patrick Schuh, state director of the advocacy group America Votes, said photo ID bills like Lyons’ legislation “put up unnecessary obstacles to voting.”

“We should be encouraging participation on Election Day, not putting up additional obstacles,” he said.

Lyons took testimony on the legislation Wednesday, but the committee did not vote.

After the hearing, Lyons said she thinks the legislation could be passed before the Republican-controlled Legislature adjourns for the year on Dec. 15.

“I don’t see why the Senate or my colleagues in the House would have a problem with us ensuring that we are making voters prove their ballot before we ... tabulate their votes,” Lyons said.

The House Elections Committee has scheduled a second hearing on the bills for 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the House Office Building in Lansing.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood