Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Byrum visits U, addresses voter registration bill

September 29, 2000
Sen. Dianne Byrum, D-Onondaga, 8th District Congressional candidate, talks to students in the Union Food Court on Thursday. Byrum and her opponent, state Sen. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, are involved in one of the nation’s most heated races. —

Dianne Byrum’s weekly coffee hours aren’t what they used to be. But MSU’s representative in the state Senate has never been involved in one of the nation’s most heated congressional races either.

Casual gatherings that used to draw only a handful of constituents now lure voters by the dozens - most who are looking to hear what Byrum, D-Onondaga, plans to do if she lands a job in Washington, D.C., come this November.

On Thursday, a student-dominated group of about 40 and reporters from The Washington Post and The New York Times gathered at the Union to hear why Byrum thinks she’s more qualified than her opponent, fellow state Sen. Mike Rogers.

“I’m the candidate here today,” she said, criticizing Rogers, R-Brighton, for canceling an on-campus debate Byrum said was planned for Thursday. “That’s the thing to remember.”

Sylvia Warner, a spokeswoman for Rogers, refuted Byrum, saying nothing was confirmed. Warner said Rogers already had a previous engagement.

“We’re still open to another debate,” Warner said. “This wasn’t our only chance to come to campus.”

The candidates met Wednesday night at Lansing Community College for the first of nine debates scheduled through Nov. 1. The next debate will be Oct. 9 at MSU-Detroit College of Law.

Byrum spent about an hour Thursday speaking about higher education, health care and Planned Parenthood, among other issues.

She told students about her relationship with MSU - she has represented the university for six years in the state Senate. Her husband and daughter graduated from MSU, and some of her campaign workers are recent graduates.

“I’ve been interacting with ASMSU, spoken with the Board of Trustees and in front of classes here,” Byrum said. “I’d like to think I’m accessible to each and every one of you.”

Students listening to Byrum on Thursday weren’t as interested in accessibility as they were the key issues - specifically state Senate bill 306, which requires voters to register in the city that appears on their driver’s license.

Rogers was one of the lead sponsors of the legislation, which passed in April, and students questioned Byrum about her stance.

Byrum doesn’t support the legislation, calling it an obstacle keeping students from voting. But Rogers says the bill will eliminate voter fraud.

“The Republicans seem to be trying to keep students from voting because they know students tend to be more liberal and will probably take votes away from their party,” political economy sophomore Louis Brown said.

And although Byrum agrees, she said she doesn’t believe the legislation will hurt her triumph over Rogers in November. All recent polls have shown the candidates in a statistical dead heat, and neither expects that to change. The race, which continues to garner the national spotlight, could determine which party becomes the majority.

Some students attending Thursday’s forum just wanted to gauge who they should vote for.

But Ben Deneweth, a computer science junior, is now pretty sure who he’ll support when he visits the polls.

“I was kind of undecided of who to vote for,” Deneweth said. “When I went to the secretary of state to register to vote, though, I made my mind up. It took me an hour and 15 minutes to get my address changed.

“Mike Rogers passed the bill and it’s keeping students from voting.”

But three students who attended Thursday’s session with Byrum, donning “Rogers for Congress” T-shirts, disagreed with Deneweth.

Adam Guillette, a political science sophomore and youth coordinator for Rogers’ campaign at MSU, said the legislation is perfectly valid.

“Everyone talks about the bill, but it was designed to cut down on voter fraud and all you have to do is fill out a form to get (your address) changed,” Guillette said.


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