BY MIKE BEHM
I have spent my entire career as a trial attorney, helping to protect Michiganders against the greedy practices of powerful groups and institutions. That’s why I cannot stand idly by while some of our elected state leaders use their power to silence Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens.
With absolutely no proof of any voter fraud in Michigan, be it under Republican or Democrat control, Republican state senators have introduced 39 bills designed to undermine our democracy by making it harder to vote. These changes would harm everyone in Michigan, from my hometown of Flint to Monroe to Marquette.
We cannot afford to have politics filled with partisan vitriol. The Republican party used to be a party of ideas, challenging conventional wisdom and encouraging hesitant voters and young people to head to the polls. But now, the party is actively limiting Michiganders’ freedom to vote. Our elected leaders — at both ends of the political spectrum — must be focused on ensuring that the voices of their constituents are heard, not erased.
These attempts to silence voters are not only an assault on the very democratic principles we pride ourselves on – they also jeopardize our economy. Since the bills were proposed, dozens of Michigan’s largest employers have denounced the voter suppression efforts. Companies like General Motors, Ford, and DTE Energy issued a joint statement condemning any attempt to silence Michiganders.
Disenfranchising voters undermines Michigan’s economic competitiveness. We compete with other states for these companies’ investments, revenue, and the tens of thousands of jobs they bring to our communities. We cannot and should not drive them away with discriminatory policies.
Congress had an opportunity to block the proposed anti-voter bills by passing the For the People Act, which would have prevented many of them from being enacted. It wasn’t a perfect bill, but it would have been a step toward creating a government that reflects the interests of all Michiganders. Our members in Washington failed to stand up to anti-democratic state legislators and protect equal access to the polls, just as the Constitution guarantees.
Michigan’s Republican party is toeing a dangerous line with its anti-voter laws and violent rhetoric. The GOP should instead turn to its history of innovative ideas and convince more people to participate in democracy.
Mike Behm is an attorney who owns his own law firm in Flint, Michigan. He is also a publicly elected Regent of the University of Michigan.