Apr 23, 2009

Republicans oppose no reason A/B voting with no reason

LANSING -- Michigan Republicans continue to resist any attempt to increase voter turnout and make it easier for citizens to cast their ballots.

The House Committee on Ethics and Elections voted two bills out of the committee to the full House along party liens on Wednesday that allows no reason absentee voting. There are only six reasons for A/B voting in Michigan: age 60 years old or older, unable to vote without assistance at the polls, expecting to be out of town on election day, in jail awaiting arraignment or trial, unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons or are appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence.

There is no doubt that no reason A/B will increase voter turnout, and at least 28 other states allow it.

“It’s amazing that in a country where the cornerstone of democracy is the vote, we do not do everything in our power to make it easier for people to vote,” said Rep. Kathy Angerer, D-Dundee, the chair of the committee. Angerer has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Secretary of State, but she has not spoken publicly about it.

Local clerks who run elections have been in support of A/B voting for years, and the numerous municipal and voting advocacy groups lined up in support of the bills was impressive.

Among those supporting no reason A/B voting are The Michigan Election Reform Alliance, The Michigan Election Coalition, The League of Women Voters, The Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks, The Michigan Municipal League, The Michigan Campaign Finance Network, The Michigan Association of County Clerks, The Michigan Townships Association, Common Cause Michigan and The Michigan Nonprofit Association. The only people opposing the bill are the House and Senate Republicans.

Evan Hope, the Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks, said no reason A/B is the association’s top priority right after early voting. He said people who don’t meet the six conditions for getting an A/B should not have to lie to get one.

“We see it all the time when people come into our office,” he said. “They hesitate, and some have to lie and some just say I hope I can find the time to vote.”

The bills passed out of the committee were House Bill 4097 sponsored by Rep. Martin Griffin, D-Jackson, and HB 4367 sponsored by Rep. Woodrow Stanley, D-Flint. The bills are basically identical, and it’s unusual that identical bills are moved on together. In fact, a Republican member of the committee asked about that. Griffin is a candidate for the vacant 19th District Senate seat up for election in November, and Senate Republicans will not approve anything with his name attached to it.

Angerer knows that firsthand. Angerer unseated an incumbent Republican when she won her first term in 2004. Republicans, who controlled the House then, were so incensed that she wore a target on her back for two years, and Republicans refused to let her even get the simplest of resolutions passed.

“I want to give the Senate the best opportunity to vote on this and pass it regardless of the sponsor,” she said.

No reason was given for the Republican’s opposition. Reasons floated in the past for opposition has been corruption and fraud, but that was not brought up during the hearing. None of the numerous clerks or voting advocates were asked about that or brought it up.

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