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GOP-backed voting initiative files with elections bureau

A petition drive took an initial step Thursday toward enacting new voter restrictions.

The Republican-backed signature campaign says it has filed its initiative language with the state Bureau of Elections. It’s a step toward enacting a veto-proof law that would make it harder for some people to vote in Michigan.

A key element is stricter voter ID requirements for voting in-person or by absentee ballot.

“The centerpiece for our plan is voter ID,” said Jamie Roe of the Secure Michigan Vote campaign. “Our thought is to take some actions here to pass widely supported, common-sense reforms that will help voters on both sides have more confidence that the results of our elections here in Michigan are accurate.”

It would require voters to present a driver’s license or some other government-issued photo ID at the polls. People who don’t have an ID with them would be handed a provision ballot that would be discarded if voters don’t return later to their local clerk to prove their identity.

The initiative is opposed by Democrats, who see it as an effort by the GOP to discourage marginal registered voters who are already less likely to cast a ballot. They say it also plays into the “Big Lie” that, despite the dearth of evidence, the last presidential election was stolen.

“I think what the Republicans are trying to do here is downright frightening,” said state Representative Matt Koleszar of Plymouth, the Democratic Vice Chair of the House Elections and Ethics Committee.

“All that this petition would do, based on everything that we’re seeing, is that it would actually create barriers to voting rather than ensure any type of election integrity,” he said. “I think it would do the opposite of election integrity. If you have less people able to vote, then you’re not getting a true reflection of what the voters of Michigan want.”

If the initiative campaign gathers roughly 340,000 signatures of registered voters within a six-month window, the next step would be for the question to go to the Legislature for an up-or-down vote.

If adopted by the House and the Senate, it could not be vetoed by the governor.

If the Legislature votes it down or lawmaker don’t act, the question would go to the ballot.

Koleszar says Democrats will launch a decline-to-sign campaign, but if the drive gathers enough signatures, they will pressure the Legislature to let the question go the ballot for voters to decide.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.