by Doug Zylstra
Vice Chairman, Ottawa County Democratic Party
Being the Vice Chair of the Ottawa County Democratic Party, and not generally agreeing with all that many Republican policies, I found myself in the unusual position in August of 2010 voting for not one, but two Republicans in their primary races. The first was Spring Lake resident Field Reichardt, whom I believe would have made a great congressional nominee for the fall race against Holland Democrat Dr. Fred Johnson. The second was Rick Snyder, whom I thought to be a more moderate, less ideological and a generally more competent candidate than his main rival, Holland resident and former US Representative Pete Hoekstra. Field, unfortunately, did not win his race-but Mr. Snyder of course, did, and convincingly. He then went on to defeat Lansing Mayor and the Democratic candidate Virg Bernero in the November general election.
|Gov. Rick Snyder|
Up until last Tuesday, outside of some helpful and interesting Dashboards, I hadn't really felt that I had got anything for my vote, and instead felt that Governor Snyder was basically governing the way a Governor Hoekstra would have, But Tuesday was the day that Governor Snyder finally redeemed a bit of his promise of being above politics by vetoing a package of voter suppression laws—including SB 754 —passed by the state legislature -which would have expanded unnecessary voter ID requirements and imposed unfair requirements and restrictions on voter registration drives, all making it harder for eligible Michigan citizens to participate in our democracy.
Under Senate Bill 754, lawmakers wanted to require third-party groups like the League of Women Voters, who have been registering people to vote for decades, to get mandatory training by the Secretary of State's office or county election clerks. Under the proposed law, new training, certification, and paperwork requirements would have made it more difficult for groups such as the League to conduct registration drives, resulting in fewer opportunities for citizens to register at locations such as schools, community centers, and churches. According to national data, Hispanic and African American voters are twice as likely as white voters to join over nine million citizens who register through voter registration drives and, therefore, more likely to be adversely affected.
From Pennsylvania to Florida to Texas, the current trend has been for legislators and governors to pass laws whose main purpose is to suppress, not empower, American voters. With an estimated 51 million eligible Americans still not registered to vote, such laws represent a major step in the wrong direction. Previously, Governor Snyder had stated that he opposed laws that disenfranchise eligible voters, and yesterday, he carried that out.
Republican response in Michigan to Governor Snyder's veto has been unusually harsh. Ari Adler, Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger's spokesman, said in a statement that, "It is not unreasonable to expect that people handling voter registrations should receive some basic training, People who believe they are registering to vote should have confidence in the process so they know their registrations are being handled properly. Antics by unscrupulous groups such as ACORN have proven that protecting the voter registration process is vital if we hope to preserve the integrity of ballots cast by every eligible voter."
Aside from the fact that ACORN no longer exists and allegations that they and groups like them ever engaged in voter fraud have been repeatedly disproved, it really is telling that Michigan Republicans seem much more concerned that one or two people may have an incorrect registration form than that hundreds and thousands of Michigan citizens may be denied the ability to participate in our great democratic experiment.
Writing this on the day that we celebrate our independence and liberty, it really feels good that Governor Snyder has stood up for democratic participation and sent a clear message that voter suppression will not be tolerated. I hope other local elected officials, from all three of our state reps to our state senator who voted for this and the other suppression bills, will follow his example. In the words of recent Secretary of State candidate Jocelyn Benson, ”This is a victory for every voter in this state, and a great nod to tomorrow’s holiday. Congratulations to all who worked to amplify peoples’ voices and emphasize the negative impact the vetoed portions of this package would have on our citizens and elections officials."
Douglas Zylstra is a small business owner and the Vice-Chair of the Ottawa County Democratic Party. Connect with Doug on Facebook here