Residents Speak Out Against Bills Attacking Voting Rights


News from Engage Michigan

December 8, 2015

Contact: Marissa Luna, 989-798-3051,

Residents Speak Out Against Bills Attacking Voting Rights

Michiganders discuss impacts of bills designed to silence voters

MICHIGAN – Today, Michigan voters hosted a tele-press conference on how bills introduced in the Michigan House and Senate to rig elections will impact their ability to participate in Michigan’s democracy. The bills highlighted included a bill to eliminate straight ticket voting, a no-reason absentee bill, and a bill that would put up numerous roadblocks to local officials who want to make voting more convenient and accessible in their communities.

“Voting is the most important right and responsibility of citizens in a democracy.  The legislature should be working to modernize voting in our state not manipulating citizen’s access to voting for their own benefits,” said Sharon Dolente, attorney and voting rights expert. “Michigan was once a leader in modernizing our elections, but we have fallen behind. These bills are moving us backwards, while the rest of the country is moving forward.”

Among the bills discussed on the call was a bill that would limit local clerks from providing convenient hours for voters to cast their absentee ballots or working with communities to figure ways for providing better in-language assistance to voters.

“My family immigrated from Bangladesh. Last year, I was able to vote in my very first election. As I prepared to vote and worked to encourage my neighbors to vote, a few things became clear: The demands of caring for multiple generations in one household, from limited resources like transportation to limited English language capabilities, can make voting on Election Day difficult,” said Mohammed Rahman, Detroit resident and member of APIA Vote-Michigan. “Governor Snyder has said on many occasions that he is the most pro-immigrant governor in the country, however bills like the ones being introduced in Michigan limit the ability of immigrants to fully participate, and punishes the local clerks who are working hard to encourage voter participation in communities like mine.”

Voters in rural communities and those with compromised health would struggle to vote under legislation to eliminate straight ticket voting and a bill that only allows no-reason absentee voting to be done in person.

“I live in a rural town in Northern Michigan and there are a lot of factors here like having to drive long distances that diminish voters’ ability to get to the polls on Election Day. Many voters utilize absentee ballots because getting to the polls is such a challenge. Bills like no-reason absentee voting that require a voter to show up in person don’t do much for people who already have to overcome barriers to getting to the polls on Election Day,” said Kathy Weidman, Brutus resident and grandmother. “Our elected leaders should be doing more to expand access to the ballot so that all eligible voters, regardless of where they live or what medical challenges they face, have a chance to participate.”

Students dealing with hectic class schedules and educational responsibilities are another group that would be disenfranchised by the bills.

“A lot of students want to be involved and participate in our democracy but face barriers to voting on Election Day because of challenges like long lines,” said Teiana McGahey, University of Michigan Dearborn student. “Our elected leaders always talk about the importance of young people participating in our state and our democracy. They should be taking down barriers to students voting to make that participation possible.”