Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed three voting bills Friday that would have imposed new restrictions in the battleground state—but Republicans may still be able to get around her veto through a loophole in state law that would let them pass restrictions the Democratic governor can’t block.
Whitmer vetoed bills the GOP-controlled legislature passed earlier in October that would have strengthened the state’s voter ID requirements—such as by requiring identification for absentee ballots—and imposed other measures like prohibiting sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications and restricting election funding.
The governor said in a letter explaining her veto that the bills “would disproportionately harm communities of color,” the Detroit Free Press reports, as an ACLU report found Black and low-income voters in the state were disproportionately likely to lack ID in the 2016 election.
An initiative needs to garner signatures equivalent to 8% of the votes cast for the governor in the last election—340,047, in this case—in order to have it introduced in the legislature, at which point lawmakers can pass the bill with a simple majority and the governor cannot veto it.
Republicans’ proposed ballot initiative includes many of the provisions in the bills Whitmer vetoed, including eliminating an affidavit option for voters without ID, requiring ID for absentee ballots, prohibiting election officials from sending unsolicited mail-in ballots and barring private election funding, after Republicans criticized 2020 election grants funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
State law also allows these initiatives to be passed by voters as a ballot measure if the legislature doesn’t act or voters request a referendum, though the Detroit Free Press notes that doesn’t apply to initiatives that include spending provisions, as this one does.
“Voting restrictions that produce such a racially disparate impact must never become law in this state,” Whitmer wrote in her veto letter.
What To Watch For
Republicans are now in the process of garnering the signatures needed to get the voting restrictions back before the legislature and evade Whitmer’s veto, after the Board of State Canvassers approved the effort in September.
Michigan was a key battleground state in the 2020 election and President Joe Biden won the state with only 50.62% of the vote. The restrictive voting bills are part of a broader effort by GOP state lawmakers to pass such legislation in the name of “election integrity,” after former President Donald Trump and his allies baselessly alleged widespread fraud in the 2020 race. The Brennan Center for Justice found 19 states have passed 33 laws this year as of September 27 that impose limits on voting. An investigation from Michigan’s Republican-led Senate Oversight Committee completed in June “no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud” in the state’s election, and pro-Trump attorneys who alleged fraud in a post-election lawsuit were sanctioned for pushing false allegations based on “speculation, conjecture, and unwarranted suspicion.”
Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania are also moving forward with plans to pass voting restrictions like voter ID provisions via ballot measure, in order to get around Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and his veto.
Whitmer vetoes election bills aimed at overhauling voter ID rules (Detroit Free Press)