Several hundred people gathered at the Michigan Capitol on Tuesday afternoon for a rally protesting proposed voter laws backed by Republican legislators that would bring about a variety of changes to voting in Michigan.
The set of 39 bills in the package would force voters to submit a photo ID, prohibit the unsolicited mass mailing of absentee ballot applications, and restrict the hours in which people could drop their ballot in curbside boxes, according to a report from the Associated Press.
The Detroit Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People led the rally. Speakers such as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Detroit) and Wayne County Sheriff Robert Dunlap spoke in support of the NAACP, Democrats and other statewide organizations that have labeled the package of legislation as "voter suppression."
"This is ridiculous," Duggan said. "They deny you your constitutional right to have the Secretary of State send you a (voting) application, then require you to Xerox your driver's license in order to send your application in — which has never been required in 150 years — then they take away our right to use drop boxes, which are all protected by security cameras. This is an attempt to keep people from voting."
Duggan and others at the Capitol weren't the only ones on Tuesday that spoke out on the proposed laws.
Earlier in the day, 36 CEOs and executives with businesses such as Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage and the Detroit Lions signed off on a joint statement speaking on the proposed legislation.
"We feel a responsibility to add our voice as changes are proposed to voting laws in Michigan and other states," the statement said.
The joint statement didn't take a stance on specific pieces of legislation that are being proposed in the Republican-led state Senate but said that elections need bipartisan input.
"The 39-bill package would let 16- and 17-year-olds pre-register to vote, create an “early voting” day 10 days before Election Day, require training of partisan election challenger, and mandate video monitoring of all ballot drop boxes," the AP report said.
It would also have drop boxes locked the day before an election at 5 p.m., which, during the pandemic, became increasingly important as Michigan saw more than 5.5 million residents vote in the presidential election. 2020 was the highest voter turnout number since 2008.
At the Capitol, hundreds with multiple organizations and religious groups from across Michigan gathered to protest the laws.
At the Capitol lawn
Protesters, Democratic legislators from the Michigan House and Senate and even Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gathered Tuesday beginning at roughly 12:30 p.m.
As a large crowd gazed at the steps of the Capitol, Rev. Tellis Chapman, the coordinator for the Michigan Interfaith Clergy Coalition, called for Republicans to stop oppressing voters.
"In fact, they don't want us to vote at all," Chapman said. "We stand with the NAACP ... and anyone else who has the guts to stand up and fight against oppression. We are all eager to get back to normal so we can all visit and hug our families. ... We want to get back to normal, but we still are dealing with the same old, devilish norm."
Chapman called for Whitmer to veto all legislation from the 39 proposed pieces that arrive on her desk as hundreds watched, cheered and held a fist upward in support of the protest.
"It's so important to have people come out and rally in support of voting rights," Geiss said. "Most of the bills make it harder for people to vote. They add additional hurdles for voters. They make it more difficult for our clerks, for the Secretary of State. Folks are coming out to say, 'This will not stand.' folks are coming out and rallying in support of expanding voting rights."
Organizers pushed registering to vote, voting in local and statewide elections and supporting businesses that have spoken out against the proposed laws.
"It's imperative that our groups like the NAACP take on the challenge of ... letting people know what is at stake," Sen. Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit) said. "People have died for the right to vote and then Blacks had to die for their right to vote, ... women had to fight for that right to vote and we're still fighting."
"It seems like every time we take a step forward or we think that there's an equalization in voting, they put out rules, policies and implement strategies to make it harder to vote," he said. "Voting should be the one fundamental thing for every citizen in our democracy. It's the one time that no matter what level you are on, what class or station, that your vote is all one."
He said it was crucial that voting is the one thing attainable for all citizens. The changes that the Republicans proposed would infringe on that, many at the rally said.
"We're not having it," Bullock said.
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