Here’s a pretty simple question for Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, and his supporters: With no voter fraud in Michigan to speak of and an anemic voter turnout of less than 30 percent for most elections, why do we want to throw up another barrier to get people out to the polls to exercise their most basic and honored right as a citizen?
On Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court voted 5-2 to disenfranchise a large number of voters when it upheld a 1996 law passed by Republicans that requires voters to show photo identification before casting their ballots. The Supreme Court was acting on House Resolution 199 that was sponsored by Ward in February of 2006 and co-sponsored by just about every Republican in the House that asked the “Michigan Supreme Court to issue an opinion on the constitutionality of the provisions of 2005 PA 71 that require voters to provide photo identification in order to obtain a ballot.”
Like everything else Ward, a former township clerk, touches you can bet it is solely intended to benefit the GOP and keep him and his cronies in power, and this ridiculous move does just that. Three Michigan Attorney Generals – two Democrats and one Republican – have held that this violated the Constitution. The law was struck down shortly after it was signed into law in 1995 by an opinion by former Michigan Attorney General and Eternal General Frank Kelley. Current AG Mike Cox, A Republican, held the same opinion, and Ward and then Speaker Craig DeRoche went to work to disenfranchise voters.
Generally, legislation is introduced to correct a problem, but what problems are Ward and the Republicans trying to correct? What voter fraud are they trying to correct? When was the last time you heard of voter fraud in Michigan? The answer to all of those questions is there is no problem with voter fraud in Michigan. Of course, what we do have are voter turnouts of less than 30 percent in most areas, and that’s a problem we as citizens should be addressing. This aggravates that problem, but that’s what Ward intended. Plus, that’s 30 percent of the people who actually registered to vote, not 30 percent of the population of voting age. Why are we so willing to give up the most cherished right that thousands of soldiers, Marines, sailors and airman have died to preserve. Instead, the GOP wants to depress voter turnout even more by throwing up a roadblock to voters. Not coincidentally, it’s minority and the poor who tend to vote Democratic that will be disenfranchised.
Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer had it right when he said in a written statement, “These photo identification laws are nothing more than a poll tax and are part of an ongoing strategy by Michigan Republicans to disenfranchise minority and older voters. There is no problem with voter fraud or voter misrepresentation in Michigan which could justify this disenfranchisement of voters.”
We can expect to see even more voter intimidation by Republicans at the polls in urban areas and polling places with predominately minority population when and if this is implemented.
I’m no attorney, but this looks like a clear violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that was adopted in 1868 to protect the rights of freed slaves in the south that says, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”
This also raises the question that was brought out in an Aug. 2, 2006 editorial in the Detroit Free Press that asked what this does to the power of the AG’s office. Some eight years ago, “Republicans in the Legislature tried to enact a law erasing much of the authority of the state attorney general, at the time a Democrat named Jennifer Granholm. The effort died, and deservedly so, amid a political mini-tempest over taking power away from the elected lawyer of the people.”
Does this decision throw out the long-held legal principle that an attorney general's opinion has the effect of law unless challenged and overturned in court?
“Such is the fate, evidently, of attorneys general who dare to issue opinions that certain legislators don't like. Power plays such as this actually underscore the need to retain the Attorney General's Office as an independent arbiter for state and local governments. Actually, attorney general's opinions often issued on an advisory basis and sometimes suggesting a legal course to follow, keep a lot of things from becoming costly legal battles for the state or the many local governments that make inquiries. And when the opinions have been challenged in court, they have been upheld more than 90 percent of the time, which underscores the way the office, at least on opinions, hews to the law rather than to politics.
The people of Michigan elect an attorney general statewide to serve as their chief law enforcement officer, not as a lackey to the Legislature. The framers of the current state Constitution, which was enacted in 1963, even referred to the attorney general as the "watchdog" of state government, on behalf of taxpayers, consumers and public officials. “