‘Let the people vote’
By Zenobia Jeffries
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Gov. Rick Snyder has been criticized for much of his administration’s policy for urban centers since taking office. His partial veto July 3 of the election reform bills, known by critics as “voter suppression bills” has been well-received by many, yet the question of whether or not the governor will have placed on November’s ballot the referendum for Public Act 4, the emergency manager law, remains to be seen.
Snyder vetoed three of the four election reform bills — Senate bills 754 803 and House Bill 5061 — that require declaration of U.S. citizenship at the ballot box, restriction of voter registration drives and the requirement for photo ID for absentee ballot applications.
One of the greatest critics of the governor’s policies, Highland Park pastor and director of Michigan Rainbow PUSH, Rev. D. Alexander Bullock called the governor’s veto great news but is waiting to see how he will act on PA 4.
“I applaud Gov. Snyder for vetoing this kind of divisive legislation. This is great news for Michigan voters,” Bullock wrote in a press release. “I now call on Gov. Snyder to uphold democratic freedoms even further by having the Board of Canvassers certify the Repeal Public Act 4 petitions so they will make it to the ballot in November and citizens can decide whether emergency management should be a reality in Michigan.
The Michigan Chapter of the National Action Network (NAN) and other local activists called on Gov. Rick Snyder at a press conference July 2 to veto the voting bills passed by the legislature last month.
“This would be the perfect day for Snyder to veto these voter suppression laws,” said Rev. Charles Williams, II, director of NAN’s Detroit Chapter. “Gov. Snyder needs to understand we just got the right to vote 50 years ago.” Williams referenced President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s signing into law the Civil Rights Act July 2, 1964.
Williams, and other opponents of Michigan’s the election reform bills, say the bills are similar to poll taxes and grandfather clauses intended to disenfranchise voters who make up mostly Black, Latino and poor populations.
Senate Bills 751, 754 and 803 and House Bill 5061 require voters to have identification when applying for an absentee ballot. They also require voters declare their U.S. citizenship by presenting valid identification when registering to vote and applying for a ballot on Election Day. The Michigan group We Are the People called the bills “ill-conceived anti-voter bills.” They had organized a petition drive against the four bills before the governor’s veto, which had already received 2,800 signatures.
“Thousands and thousands of voters asked Gov. Snyder to veto this ill conceived legislation, said the group’s director Todd Cook. “There’s no good reason to make it harder for people to vote, or make it harder for civic and community organizations to register voters.
Cook called the veto good news and said it signals that the people’s right to vote has been protected.
“At a time when special interests and wealthy individuals have way too much influence over our electoral process, it’s more important than ever to keep the door to the voting booth open to everyone who wants to exercise their rights.”
Williams said the bills are a part of a national tactic by the Republican Party to suppress the vote of minorities and the Democratic base.
Thirty-nine other states have similar laws sponsored by Republicans, including the mid-western states of Indiana and Wisconsin.
Williams says Michiganders need to [now] turn their attention to getting the referendum for the emergency manager law on the ballot in November.
“PA4 needs to go on the ballot, immediately. Gov. Snyder needs to call (Secretary of State) Ruth Johnson to put it on,” says Williams.
During the July 2 press conference, Williams said, if PA4 is not placed on the ballot and Snyder signs the voting bills into law, his organization along with other Michigan groups and citizens from Detroit to Flint, Pontiac, Inkster, Belleville and Romulus plan to march from Detroit to Lansing.
“The march is planned July 23-27. We’ll march 15-20 miles a day, starting at Grand River in Detroit, unless Gov. Snyder vetoes the bills and places the referendum for the emergency manager law on the ballot,” says Williams.
Williams says it’s a day to let people across the country know we’re dealing with an anti-democratic party in Michigan.
Bullock says he supports Williams and NAN.
“I think that direct action is important. It’s good to see him take the lead (with the march to Lansing),” Bullock told the Michigan Citizen.
However, Bullock says he doesn’t believe Snyder will place the question of repealing the emergency manager law on the ballot and so the march to Lansing will more than likely happen.
“Public Act 4 is the centerpiece of Snyder’s administration. Emergency management is Snyder’s urban policy,” he said. “It’s his solution to fiscal crises in school districts and cities. I don’t think the treasurer (Andy Dillion) or the governor intend to provide any assistance.”
Williams was not convinced that Snyder would veto the bills or place the repeal question either.
“The governor talks about not wanting to be decisive. He said he was concerned when he had teacher’s collective bargaining on his desk but he signed that into law,” Williams said.
Both Williams and Bullock with other Michigan activists marched on Snyder’s residence in protest of the first-term governor’s policies earlier this year on Martin Luther King Day.
In addition to the march other state-wide actions have been planned in communities imposed by emergency management.
The protest received national coverage. Both activists say national coverage of the march would bring awareness to what’s taking place in Michigan.
“I think best-case scenario is it provides for sustained media coverage, if not nationally, in the state,” Bullock said. He believes the march to Lansing will help those who haven’t understood the direct impact of voter suppression and efforts to prevent the PA4 question from being placed on the November ballot.
“When the court of appeals made their decision, the story was ‘we won,’ (so) what are we still fighting for? I don’t think we’ve made that connection to how it’s affecting them. Maybe it’s the march to Lansing, maybe it’s occupying emergency manger offices” that will get citizens to see the detriment of the laws being passed by the Republican Legislature and signed by Gov. Snyder, Bullock said.
Contact Zenobia Jeffries at firstname.lastname@example.org