The Republican-backed, corporate-funded war on voting rights took a hit today in Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder vetoed three voter suppression bills that had been passed by both houses of the legislature. His justification? He didn’t want to disenfranchise, even accidentally, any Michigan citizens.
The bills were:
House Bill 5061 – Requiring photo ID for first voter registration or to obtain an absentee ballot. Progressive and civil rights activists strongly opposed this bill as a way to disenfranchise low-income and minority prospective voters. “I am concerned (the bill) could create voter confusion among absentee voters,” Snyder said.
Senate Bill 754 – Instituting severe limits on third-party groups that want to register voters, like the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote. The measure is similar to one in Florida that was blocked by a federal judge.
Senate Bill 803 – Requiring residents to check off a box on their ballot affirming that they are U.S. citizens.
Karla Swift, the President of the Michigan State AFL-CIO and fellow critic of Snyder said in a statement:
Governor Snyder did the right thing today by vetoing a controversial package of laws designed to make access to the ballot box more difficult. This is a great day for all Michigan voters, and the labor movement commends the governor for standing up to extremists in his own party.
This is a dramatic departure from the policies of many of Snyder’s colleagues. Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, Rick Scott of Florida, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania and several others were all elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, and on many issues have acted with near coordination. Walker and his radical legislature passed a voter ID bill that is currently legally enjoined, and Scott’s voter purge in Florida and practical expulsion of voter registration groups has attracted widespread criticism. Many of these bills have been influenced or supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its member legislators (that is certainly the case in Pennsylvania). Governors and their allies are using easily disproven myths to justify these reactionary laws, passing them in state after state with little media attention.
So why is Snyder, a Republican governor in a state with top-down Republican control of state government, vetoing these bills?
Let’s get one thing clear: while we’re pleased with this particular action, this does not absolve Gov. Snyder of instituting other regressive, anti-worker, anti-democratic policies. This does not make him a “moderate” – we’re still talking about the man behind Public Act 4, the emergency financial manager law that allows the governor to effectively abolish local government and public contracts as he sees fit. The measure was just used to impose (not negotiate) an unfavorable contract on Detroit public school teachers.
But it does mean that the voter suppression issue has been exposed and made public such that Snyder – a consummate politician – didn’t want to be associated with it. And even as we fight Snyder and hits allies for Michiganders’ right to bargain collectively and control their own local governments, the crack in the Republican front in the war on voting rights is a victory unto itself.