We’ve heard a lot about voter suppression as we approach Election Day. So what is it and how does it manifest itself? The Associated Press explains. (Oct. 5)
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has ruled in favor of Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature, reinstating the state’s ban on hiring transportation to carry voters to the polls after a state court issued an injunction against the Michigan law.
The law prohibits voter advocacy organizations from paying for transportation to bring voters to the polls and ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber from offering discounted rides to Michigan voters on Election Day. It does not prohibit volunteers from driving voters to the polls for free.
The case, Priorities USA et al v. Nessel,was among the earliest election-related lawsuits filed in Michigan in what experts say is the most litigious election season in American history. In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in late January, a Democratic super PAC — Priorities USA — and two voter advocacy groups — Rise Inc. and the Detroit/Downriver Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute — asked the court to issue an injunction against the state’s ban unless a voter is physically unable to walk.
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On Sept. 17, a U.S. District Court judge granted the plaintiffs’ motion.
Following the ruling, Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature, joined by the Michigan Republican Party and the Republican National Committee, filed an emergency motion to stay the injunction. The motion was denied in U.S. District Court. The Legislature then filed an emergency motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals. The court granted the Legislature’s motion Tuesday in a 2-1 vote, reinstating Michigan’s voter-transportation law.
Michigan’s law was enacted in 1895 to prevent “vote-hauling,” the practice of securing votes by bribing voters with transportation to the polls, the court said in its majority opinion, written by Judge Danny J. Boggs and joined by Judge Deborah L. Cook.
“Michigan’s ban on voter transportation is one provision among several others in the statute intended to prevent fraud and undue influence,” the opinion states.
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In his dissent, Chief Judge R. Guy Cole Jr., said that Michigan’s Legislature did not have standing in federal court in this case. Federal law preempts Michigan’s voter-transportation statute, Cole said, noting that the Federal Election Campaign Act precludes states from limiting expenditures regarding federal candidates. Cole said that Michigan’s election law prevents organizations from spending money to support federal candidates if that money is used to transport voters to the polls.
In 2018, the ride-sharing company Uber offered discounted rides to the polls on Election Day in every U.S. state except Michigan.
The ruling puts into question some free ride programs offered in Michigan, such as one recently announced partnership among a number of voter advocacy groups in the state. The program promised to assist any voter in need of a ride.
“We are analyzing the ruling,” said Dana Chicklas of ACLU Michigan, one of the program’s partners. “We can have volunteer programs, but we can’t spend resources to advertise volunteer programs.”
In response to the Court of Appeals decision, Michigan Democratic Party chair Lavora Barnes said: “The Republicans have once again purposefully created another barrier to voting. Every voter in this country, including Michiganders, has the right to access the polls. For some, that simply means they need a ride.”
The Michigan Republican Party declined to comment.
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