Thanks, Jill: Michigan House passes voter-ID bill after vote-fraud hyperbole

Be careful what you wish for … you just might get it. Jill Stein didn’t get the recount she wanted in Michigan, but she did get the state to take vote-integrity issues seriously. Meeting in its lame-duck session, the state House of Representatives passed a tough voter-ID bill that includes $3 million for funding of free state identification and birth certificates after over 18,000 voters cast ballots without identification in the presidential election:

Michigan’s Republican-led House on Wednesday night approved a strict voter identification proposal over strenuous objections from Democrats who argued the plan could disenfranchise properly registered voters.

Michigan voters without photo identification could still cast a provisional ballot under the controversial legislation, but they would have to bring an ID to their local clerk’s office within 10 days of an election in order for their vote to count.

Current law requires a photo ID too, but also allows for voters to sign an affidavit under oath that attests to their identity and eligibility. The House might have had ample reason to wonder about abuse under that system when looking at the distribution of the practice. The Detroit News’ Jonathan Oostling reports that almost half of all such votes took place in heavily Democratic Wayne County, and almost 6,000 in the city of Detroit alone. That seems oddly disproportional, given that Wayne County accounted for just 16% of the state’s total.

It’s worth noting that Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, well below that total of non-ID ballots. That might tend to bolster Stein’s general complaint about potential voter fraud, but a recount wouldn’t be able to determine whether those ballots were cast fraudulently anyway. Ballots are cast secretly, so they do not contain any identifying marks. Once cast, a ballot from an ineligible voter is indistinguishable from legitimate ballots, and a recount would count them again, too. If the recount is about integrity and not the outcome, then Stein and her allies should be cheering this change in the statute, assuming it passes the state Senate.

What about that? Republicans have a supermajority in Michigan’s upper chamber, 27-11, so it would seem to be a slam-dunk that this change will get to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk. The GOP did lose a couple of members on the House vote, but they’ve got room to breathe in the Senate. Unless Snyder surprises Republicans with a veto, the bill should pass into law at the end of the session. About that, though

Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan surprised his fellow Republicans on Tuesday, refusing to sign two bills that would have required voters to show photo identification before obtaining an absentee ballot. The vetoes are an election-year rarity for the party, which has pressed for tougher voter identification laws nationwide.

The bills were among three that Mr. Snyder returned to legislators after approving 11 other measures in a package of election changes based on proposals by Michigan’s secretary of state, Ruth Johnson. They were passed by lawmakers two weeks ago. “These reforms will make a good election system even better by adding appropriate safeguards and improving transparency,” Mr. Snyder said. He said the vetoed bills “could create voter confusion among absentee voters.”

Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for the governor, said that confusion had to do with a part of the bills that would have made voters check a citizenship box before receiving a ballot. Mr. Snyder suggested that verification of a person’s citizenship should be done only once, when a voter is first registered, she said.

That happened in 2012, and the citizenship checkbox requirement has been dropped. Snyder’s in his second term now too, and might feel more ready to implement better protection against voter fraud and ballot integrity — now that Stein’s paved the way for action. Thanks, Jill!