Less than a month after Donald Trump unexpectedly carried Michigan by 10,000 votes, Republicans in the state legislature are already pushing to make it harder to vote. The presidential recount hasn’t even finished yet and Michigan Republicans are trying to pass a strict voter-ID law through the lame-duck legislative session before the end of this year.
Under current Michigan law, a voter who does not present photo ID at the polls can sign an affidavit confirming their identify, under penalty of perjury, and cast a regular ballot. Under the new bill, which passed the House Elections Commission on a 5-3 party-line vote on December 1, voters without strict ID would have to cast a provisional ballot and then return to their local clerk’s office within 10 days of the election with photo ID to have their votes counted.
This change to Michigan’s election laws could make a big difference in future elections: 18,339 people without strict photo ID used the affidavit option to vote in 2016—8,000 votes greater than Trump’s margin of victory. One-third of the affidavits came from Detroit, where Hillary Clinton won 67 percent of the vote in Wayne County.
Already, Trump’s discredited lie that “millions” voted illegally in 2016 seems to be impacting Republican actions. “A multitude of candidates have raised the concerns about the integrity of elections,” said GOP Representative Lisa Lyons, who sponsored the bill. “We need to respond to those questions. We are going to make sure that we’re protecting you—all voters—and the integrity of the election.”
Like Trump, Lyons presented no evidence of voter impersonation or other types of fraud to justify her bill. She passed the bill in her committee after just two days of testimony last week, when the rest of the state was preoccupied with the recount. The bill included $10 million to pay for the voter-ID law, which sounds like a good thing, but makes it impossible for voters to overturn the law via referendum.
“Donald Trump tweeted that millions had voted illegally and 48 hours later this bill popped up out of nowhere,” says Dan Korobkin, deputy legal director for the Michigan ACLU. “That’s either a giant coincidence or a very concerted effort to disenfranchise people at the state and local level based on lies.”
Despite their stated concern for voter fraud, Michigan Republicans on Friday sued to block a recount of the state’s presidential votes, which would’ve ensured the accuracy of the final count. The brief by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette criticized Jill Stein because “she cited no evidence of fraud or mistake in the canvass of votes,” even though a similar paucity of fraud hasn’t stopped Republicans from pushing for voter ID.