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Activists demonstrate to stop package of voter suppression legislation

Activists demonstrate to stop package of voter suppression legislation

Shirkeyball finals show how Senate Majority Leader is playing games with voting

As part of their annual Capitol Week events, Michigan United members and their allies played a game they call “Shirkeyball'' in front of the capitol building to protest proposed legislation that would make voting harder for many, especially seniors, students, and people of color. A fake Sen. Mike Shirkey stood between a ballot box on a backboard and someone trying to toss their vote into it. One by one, the faux senate majority leader forcefully blocked their votes before strutting around the court.

When the game was over, fans came down from the stands to tell their experiences with voter suppression. Alicia Morris learned about Jim Crow tactics from her grandmother who moved from Arkansas to Nebraska so she could vote without having to guess how many marbles were in a jar. In the last election of her life, Alicia’s grandmother insisted she be taken in a wheelchair to cast her ballot in person while everyone else in the nursing home where she lived voted by mail. “What if we take that away? Don’t you want your grandmother to be able to vote?” she asked the crowd. “You don’t want them to have to go out of their way to vote.”

Indeed, Senate Bill 285, just one of the 39 pending laws, would require voters to submit ID information when applying for an absentee ballot application which would be as hard as voting in person for many. “I’ve already proven my identity when I registered to vote,” said Michigan United organizer Steve James as he listed the many problems with the package of bills. “This is duplicative and unnecessary.” Senate Bills 303 and 304 would not only require a state ID in order to vote in-person on Election Day but would also remove the option to vote by affidavit without one. “These are not reforms. These are suppressions and restrictions. The complete antithesis of what we voted for in 2018,” James said.

Cindy Reese had earlier come to Lansing in a group with MOSES for the public hearing on the voter suppression bills, but none of them was allowed to speak. Yet it was due to the efforts of organizations like hers that Michigan saw record turnout in the last two elections. “These bills are telling Michiganders that we did something wrong by participating fully in our citizenship,” Reese finally got to say at the rally. “These bills are taking us backwards.”

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