Three Things Thursday: June 24, 2021

Three Things Thursday: June 24, 2021

Dear Michigan LCV Family, 

Welcome to the June 24, 2021 edition of Three Things Thursday! If you read nothing else today, please read this update on anti-voter legislation in Lansing and the long-game plan the Republican Party has for ensuring FEWER voters have access to the polls. It’s dangerous, insidious and most major media are not covering the details in ways that provide Michiganders with the full picture. 

In addition to the deep dive into anti-voter actions, looking at — in particular — what happened just yesterday in the state House, this week’s edition of Three Things  also includes information on Gov. Whitmer’s recently announced parks funding and our work on wildlife and land conservation legislation, and a look at two outstanding members of the Michigan LCV family.

1. 250 audits and GOP Senate leadership say “safe, secure 2020 election”… and yet the very same leaders continue to push voter suppression legislation??!! 

Over 250 audits of Michigan’s 2020 election have been conducted, all of which have concluded the same thing: the election was held safely, securely and successfully amidst a global pandemic and with massive voter turnout.  None of the audits have found any indication, whatsoever, of the GOP’s consistently false claims of “fraud.”  Indeed, just yesterday the GOP-led Michigan Senate Oversight Committee published a 35-page report, which states conclusively on the first page that “the committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s execution of the 2020 election.” 

And, yet, the GOP is hell bent on the passage of a series of bills that, under the auspices of “election security,” will — bottom line —work to suppress voter participation in our great state, including a new supplement yesterday that is the most extreme measure we’ve seen to date.

Even though Michigan has a voter ID law that has been in place for years and has been functioning well, the GOP is intent on putting more stringent, and highly discriminatory, laws in place.  Just yesterday, the House passed legislation (58-52) that:

  1. Does away with Michigan’s existing option to vote without an ID, which requires a voter sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury and 
  2. Requires the state to provide poll workers access to the qualified voter file and makes mandatory a signature check between that file and the voter’s application to vote (that half sheet form you quickly fill out before receiving your ballot at the polls). If poll workers determine  that signatures don’t match, voters – regardless of whether they have ID with them – would only be allowed to cast a provisional ballot.  If they want to make sure their votes are truly counted, voters would then need to follow up and confirm their identity to local clerks within six days of the election. And, then, their vote would only count if local clerks send their ballot to the county Board of Canvassers within seven days of the election. 

This would mean that any voter – again, regardless of having ID on them at the polling place – who happens to rush and sign sloppily or has a disability or age related reason that their signature has changed since they registered to vote or renewed their license, would be subject to voting a provisional not regular ballot.  This would also mean that every poll worker would have more to do to process every voter, meaning longer wait times for everyone voting on Election Day. More time waiting is not an option for so many of us for all sorts of reasons: work, school, family obligations, the list goes on.

You can read our full statement on Wednesday’s vote here.

Think about these real life scenarios: 

  • A farmer takes a break from plowing their fields and drives to the polling location to vote. They have forgotten their ID at home. Are they going to go back home, get their ID and return to cast their vote? Highly unlikely. 
  • A single mom with two small children in tow stops to vote on the way to the bus, which she will take to the daycare center before going to her job. She’s switched purses and has forgotten her ID at home. Will she have the time to turn around to go get her ID? Will she return later in the day? Highly unlikely. 
  • A young man, recently home from time in the Peace Corps where he voted by absentee ballot, has lost his ID and is living with his parents as he acclimates to being back in Michigan. He has no ID to show the poll worker; he has no utility bills in his name to prove his residency. 

With Michigan’s current voter ID law, the Peace Corps volunteer can sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury (without leaving the polling place or needing to find time to go to the clerk’s office within six days) and cast his vote, as can the farmer and the single mom, but not if the bill passed by the House yesterday becomes law. 

Bridge Magazine had a good article about the House vote yesterday, which I encourage you to read.  Here’s one particularly key quote: 

“Voting without an ID is rare in Michigan — records analyzed by Bridge Michigan found only 0.2 percent of votes last year, or 11,400, did so…..But those voters are disproportionately in communities of color, such as Detroit, and opponents of the strict voter ID laws say they could disenfranchise voters. Some studies estimate as many as 13 percent of African-American residents nationwide lack a government-issued ID.”

Next steps? The House bill is now back in the Senate’s hands and will likely be taken up again by the Elections Committee next week before the legislature heads out on recess, which means the bill will soon be sent to Governor Whitmer who will undoubtedly use her veto pen to stop this insanity. That’s the good news.  

Unfortunately, this will not be the end of the GOP’s efforts, but these recent actions offer an opportunity to engage the Michigan electorate in clear, concise, compelling ways about the dangerous games underway in Lansing.  

In the days ahead, many expect that Michigan Republican leadership may move from legislative action to focus on citizen-initiated changes to the State Constitution.  The process requires the collection of 340,047 valid signatures (no more than 15% from any single Congressional District).  If a sufficient number of signatures are collected, the legislature has 40 session days to either enact the law (which does not require a gubernatorial signature) or reject/do nothing and send it to the ballot for a vote at the next general election. 

If the opponents to voting rights are intent on impacting the November 2022 general election, they would need to collect/submit signatures in the Summer of 2021  (right now!) and the legislature would need to adopt the provision before the end of the year. If the GOP intends, instead, to turn this into a November 2022 ballot initiative (assuming no legislative action), they have until June 1, 2022 to submit their signatures. 

The way to stop this? There are a number of things at play within the voting rights community. Community engagement/voter education is one of the most essential pieces of this puzzle.  Michiganders enthusiastically voted to pass Promote the Vote/Prop 3 in 2018. Voters in Michigan want more access to the ballot, not less. Voters know, having experienced the 2020 election first hand, that it really was a safe, secure election. One tactic under consideration is what’s called a ‘Citizens’ Veto.’ If the GOP gathers enough signatures for a citizen-initiated law, and the legislature adopts it this year, those of us who oppose this terrible voter suppression have 90-days from the end of the 2021 legislative session to collect 212,530 valid signatures. Once a sufficient number of signatures are validated, the citizen-initiated (via petition) law is stayed until a vote of the people on the next general election ballot (November 2022). The courts will definitely be involved if we end up in this place. 

Please know that the Michigan LCV team will keep you posted every week as this devious, dangerous saga unfolds.  We will continue — in partnership with an array of allies — to monitor the situation and boldly stand up for voting rights in Michigan. If you have questions or are interested in joining the effort and taking action, please visit the Take Action page on our website.

2. Protecting our land & wildlife as Michiganders get outside for summer fun

It’s officially summer time and Michiganders — including so many in the Michigan LCV family — are eager and ready to get outside and enjoy the beautiful parks, lakes, and beaches that our state has to offer.  As we do so, it is vitally important that Michigan’s numerous natural spaces are protected, preserved and celebrated, and that access is improved for all who live in or visit our great state. 

While sometimes overshadowed by issues like toxic PFAS contamination, climate change and voter suppression, protection and preservation of Michigan’s amazing parks and natural spaces is central to our mission at Michigan LCV. And, we clearly recognize the intersectionality of the work we do, with climate change and water contamination, for example, having significant impacts on our open spaces and public lands. 

Earlier this month, Gov. Whitmer announced a plan to use $250 million of federal stimulus funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to invest in state parks and trails to modernize our state parks and boost our tourism industry. The announcement is fantastic news for Michigan’s parks and anyone looking to get outside this summer. Investing in our parks system and boosting tourism will not only help many Michigan communities economically, but also improve access for Michiganders everywhere as we recover from COVID-19. In response to the Governor’s announcement, we swiftly issued a press release applauding the plan, which you can read in its entirety here

In others news, legislation was introduced this week by State Representatives Bill Sowerby (D-Clinton Township) and Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) that would modify the Wolf Management Advisory Council and Michigan Wildlife Commission to include a more diverse and inclusive array of perspectives on the boards of both groups.  On Tuesday, Michigan LCV’s Government Affairs Director Nick Occhipinti joined Reps. Sowerby and Aiyash in Lansing for a press conference announcing the proposed legislation.

Pictured left to right:  Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D – Hamtramck), Tim Minotas (Sierra Club), Nichole Biber (Michigan Anishinaabek Caucus, Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians), Nick Occhipinti (Michigan LCV), Bee Friedlander (Attorneys for Animals), Rep. Bill Sowerby (D – Clinton Township)

House Bill 5078 would add four new seats to the board of the Michigan Wildlife Commission, which oversees policy recommendations to Gov. Whitmer on wildlife and conservation. Two of the newly created seats would be for individuals with a background in wildlife management or conservation from non-profit conservation organization, one would go to an individual with a masters degree in zoology or wildlife management, and one would go to a representative of Michigan’s tribal government to include indigenous perspectives. 

House Bill 5079 would add two new seats to the board of the Wolf Management Advisory Council, including one individual from the non-profit sector and one with a masters in zoology or wildlife management as well. As gray wolves were taken off the endangered species list last year, these additions will help the Council make good policy decisions when it comes to hunting and protection of wolves in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

These bills are examples of the type of action on public land and conservation of wildlife that often fly under the radar. By investing in our natural spaces, parks, and wildlife, Michigan can continue to be the beautiful, accessible, fresh water paradise that we all love and enjoy. If you would like to watch Tuesday’s press conference in its entirety, you can find the recording here

In other land related news, our Government Affairs team has been working closely with Senator Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) on a Senate resolution in support of 30×30, which stems from a national effort to protect 30% of the United States’ land and waters by 2030. Sen. Schmidt introduced the resolution today, which sets to preserve 30% of Michigan’s land and water by 2030. An identical House Resolution was introduced in February by Rep. Lightner (R – Springport). You can read our statement about the Senate Resolution here.

3. Michigan LCV: who’s a part of the family?

Over the past several months, the Michigan LCV team has been working to highlight and celebrate amazing members of the Michigan LCV family, including staff and board, as well as volunteers. What are their stories? How did they find their way to Michigan LCV? Why do they care so much about the protection of natural spaces, clean air and safe water, democracy and voting rights, and public health?

Back in February, our team launched a new series called The Michigan LCV Family: Stories from Water & Climate Justice, Public Health, and Voting Rights Leaders. On a monthly basis, starting with Michigan LCV Board President George Davis, the Family Stories series features a member of the greater Michigan LCV family.

This month, our team has worked double time to produce not one, but TWO stories:

One  story highlights an extraordinary member of Michigan LCV’s board: Keith Cooley. The publication of Keith’s story, written by our Partnership Manager Joané Booth, coincided with Juneteenth and focused on Keith’s journey as a Black man through the stark racism found in both higher education and the professional landscape. Keith’s story is an incredible illustration of perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity and prejudice. As an accomplished nuclear engineer, Keith has worked in a variety of fields throughout his career. His resume includes time with General Motors and in the public sector as the Director of Labor & Economic Growth and cabinet member to former Governor Jennifer Granholm. 

Keith Cooley is a member of the Michigan LCV Board of Directors. You can read Keith’s full  bio on our website.

We are extraordinarily fortunate to have Keith on our board and as part of the Michigan LCV family. I encourage you to read Keith’s full story here

Our other story focuses on Lauren May, a high school student from Traverse City, MI who is a dedicated Our Water Activist/volunteer working with our Political & Outreach team. Lauren’s story is an impressive one and an excellent example of the passion young people have for protecting the Earth, our natural environment, and human health. In the midst of all her volunteerism and school work, Lauren was somehow also able to achieve a perfect score on her SAT test, garnering a feature story in the Traverse City Record Eagle. You can read Lauren’s full story here

Lauren May is a Michigan LCV Our Water Activist and high school student from Traverse City

As always, thank you for all you do and for your support of our work at Michigan LCV. 



P.S. Michigan LCV in the news!

Earlier this week, our very own Political & Outreach Director, Londell Thomas, did a TV interview for Civic Center Television’s Oakland Megacast, a local TV station in Oakland County. The interview covered a number of issues, but focused on Michigan LCV’s work on Green initiatives and the state-federal climate initiative our team has been engaged in to pass the American Jobs Plan. Londell also talked about Michigan LCV’s work to hold our elected officials accountable, focusing on our Digital Accountability Suite and Scorecard. 

(With so much going on in Lansing, it can be hard to stay on top of how your lawmaker is voting on issues related to the environment, clean water, climate change, and voting rights. I urge you to check out our Legislative Scorecard if you haven’t already, and learn more about how your elected representatives stand on the issues that matter most to you.)

Thank you, Londell, for being a fantastic ambassador for the Michigan LCV team! Way to go! 

You can watch Londell’s interview in its entirety here

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