With just two weeks to go before the deadline to register to vote in Michigan (Oct. 4), eerie things are happening on the Michigan Secretary of State’s website.
First, a little background. In a callow move in 2000, Republicans in the state of Michigan passed a law requiring college students in Michigan have one address for both their voter registration and also drivers’ license. Sensible students registered to vote wherever they wanted – either at their college town, or their hometown. If you vote in your college town, the state will send you a sticker to put on your license to update that address. No big deal – just another move by Republicans to make it harder for people to vote.
There’s one more catch, however: that law required that if you are registering to vote by mail, the first time you vote must be in person, not by absentee ballot. The Republican state legislators knew that college students would likely prefer to register to vote in their home towns, since the first election most would be able to vote in they’d be away at college. You can almost hear them doing the Dr. Evil cackle in smokey rooms in Lansing.
The solution, of course, is just register in Ann Arbor (or your college town) and vote in person. They also allowed absentee ballots for your first election if you request one in person – how nice, if the students remembered to do it when they were home – three months before the election.
Here’s where things get murky. Until recently, the state’s Secretary of State website clearly explained this anti-democratic law instituted to suppress student votes:
“First-time voter. If you have never voted in Michigan and register by mail, you must appear in person to vote in the first election in which you wish to participate. This requirement does not apply if (1) you or another person hand delivers the mail registration form to your county, city or township clerk’s office instead of mailing the form (2) you are 60 years of age or more (3) you are disabled or (4) you are eligible to vote under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.”
You may have noticed I linked to a Google cached copy of the website. That’s because the Secretary of State has edited the website, omitting the critical phrase “or another person”. Here’s the current text:
“First-time voter. If you have never voted in Michigan and register by mail, you must appear in person to vote in the first election in which you wish to participate. This requirement does not apply if (1) you personally hand delivers the mail registration form to your county, city or township clerk’s office instead of mailing the form (2) you are 60 years of age or more (3) you are disabled or (4) you are eligible to vote under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.”
You “personally hand delivers”? Sounds like somebody in Republican Tarri Lynd Land’s Secretary of State office is up to no good, unless the law has changed under the noses of the media. What’s the bottom line?
– The Michigan State Legislature should repeal the law requiring students must have the same address for voting and on their driver’s licenses. The current arrangement simply serves to confuse voters and wastes taxpayer’s money by forcing the government to keep changing addresses.
– Election Day should be a federal holiday to facilitate voting by giving the people the day off work.
– All people – whether in prison, on probation, or otherwise should have the right to vote. Currently, Maine and Vermont do this, but in every other state there are restrictions – in Michigan, only prisoners serving time for felonies cannot vote – not as bad as Florida or Mississippi, where felons lose the right to vote permanently. See RightToVote.org.
– The U.S. should require all states require the most accurate voting machinery available, all voting machines produce a paper trail for recounts, and provide federal funding to enable every local agency to purchase the most accurate machines. I prefer the Scantron machines used in Ann Arbor: very efficient and accurate – no Diebold machines, no hanging chad.