Lansing – The president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan is pushing back against proposed legislation that would require groups like hers to be trained and certified by the Secretary of State’s Office to register people to vote.
The League of Women Voters has been registering people to vote since women were granted the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, said Susan Kay Smith, an Ann Arbor resident and president of LWV of Michigan.
“We all use the same form and the instructions are on the form. So it’s not that difficult to do,” Smith told the House Redistricting and Elections Committee on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 754, which contains the voter ID provision, also requires the Secretary of State’s Office to train third-party groups on how to register people to vote or allow a county clerk to do the training. Smith said this could create an impediment to civic and church groups seeking to get citizens registered to vote because “there are no assurances that the required training will be offered throughout the state.”
Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Grand Rapids, did not testify Tuesday morning in defense of his bill.
Melvin Butch Hollowell, general counsel for the Detroit branch of the NAACP, said the photo ID requirement to register to vote would create a barrier to vote for people without identification and is a solution in search of a problem.
“We’re correcting a problem that never exists,” Hollowell said. “We don’t have a problem with voter impersonation.”
Republican lawmakers on the panel did not cite a specific incident or group that sparked the need for the legislation.
Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, said a he was asked to produce identification Monday night when trying to purchase a beer at an establishment in Kalamazoo.
“Isn’t the integrity of the ballot more important than a 51-year-old guy getting carded?” Pscholka asked.
Hollowell also likened the photo identification requirement to Jim Crow laws of the late 1800s and early 1900s that required blacks to pay a poll tax or pass a literacy test in order to vote.
“They don’t seem to equate in my mind,”said state Rep. Ed McBroom, a Republican from Vulcan in the Upper Peninsula.
McBroom expressed general concern about voting fraud.
“I have constituents in my district whose parents have been dead for years who are voting in Chicago,” McBroom said.
Asked by a reporter after the hearing about how to contact those constituents, McBroom said he doesn’t actually know them. He just heard about their concerns about voting fraud in Chicago during a door-to-door campaign stop.