Editorial: Stricter voter ID unnecessary

The Detroit News

Republicans who are fighting a presidential vote recount in Michigan acknowledge that there’s no proof of voter fraud. But at the same time, the GOP-controlled Legislature is trying during the current lame-duck session to pass stricter photo voter ID laws.

But if the recount opponents are right that there’s no real voter fraud, then it proves Michigan’s process for voter identification is enough to ensure the integrity of the system.

A GOP-backed bill making its way through the House would require voters to present photo identification for their vote to ultimately be counted in Michigan.

A voter without ID would fill out a provisional ballot, which would only be counted if the voter returned to the clerk’s office within 10 days to show the photo ID or prove they are indigent. Religious exemptions to being photographed would also count.

While showing photo ID isn’t necessarily the egregious burden many make it out to be, it’s also not necessary for voting to take place with integrity.

Other solutions exist that don’t require extra visits to clerks’ offices, not to mention $10 million from the state’s budget — the amount this legislation requests. The appropriation is designed to protect the bill from being repealed by voters.

The money would go toward “election modernization, voter education and implementation” of the new rules. It would be better spent upgrading the voting equipment in communities where the machinery is unreliable.

Voters in Michigan are already required to show a photo ID or sign an affidavit confirming their identity. That is working. Adding the requirement of a return visit to positively prove identity is onerous and would mostly impact elderly and impoverished voters.

If lawmakers want another layer of proof, they should allow a voter registration card to suffice if a photo ID is unavailable. Every voter gets one in the mail.

Adoption of this law would place Michigan with Wisconsin, Kansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia as the only states that require voters to both sign an affidavit at the polls and take an additional step to later prove their identity.

House Speaker Kevin Cotter said he intends to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote still this session as the legislation would protect the right to vote.

The proposed law would create additional barriers to voting, and is a step in the wrong direction. The state should instead be looking for ways to increase participation in the electoral process.

Michigan is one of a minority of states without no-reason absentee voting and early voting options. Those are the measure lawmakers ought to be considering as they prepare to adjourn this legislative session.