Saturday, October 25, 2008

Clerks to Defy Cox and Bishop on First-Time Voters

When we last left the latest Republican attempt to suppress the vote, the office of the Attorney General Mike Cox had issued an "informal opinion" on the rules for people who registered by mail or through a third party, proclaiming that first-time voters must appear in person to vote.

Michigan election law requires first-time voters who register by mail to vote or pick up an absentee ballot in person the first time they vote. The requirement can cause problems for students who are registered at their parents' address but attend college elsewhere.

To get around the problem, 66 of 83 county clerks cross-deputized each other so they could verify first-time voters' identities without those voters having to return to their hometowns to apply for absentee ballots.

Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land agreed with the practice. But in response to a letter from GOP Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop questioning the practice, Republican Attorney General Mike Cox's office said it isn't authorized under law.

Cox didn't issue a formal opinion, which has the force of law. Instead, Chief Deputy Attorney General Carol Isaacs wrote an "informational letter."

According to MIRS, the clerks are going ahead with their plans to help voters until "force of law" is applied, and it appears Terri Lynn is taking issue with the opinion - presenting an interesting Republican vs. Republican battle.

First-time voters who registered by mail or with a third-party group must vote in person Nov. 4, according to an advisory released today by Attorney General Mike COX. But the head of the Michigan Association of County Clerks said clerks won't heed the AG.

Saginaw County Clerk Sue KALTENBACH, a Democrat, said more than half of Michigan's 83 county clerks would continue to help first-timers cast absentee ballots. Cox, a Republican, said this doesn't comply with the law.

Kaltenbach said she does not believe they're in violation of the law or that the advisory is necessarily legally binding.

"Unless we're told to actually cease and desist, we'll continue," she said today.

Secretary of State Terri Lynn LAND disagrees with the AG's advisory, spokeswoman Kelly CHESNEY said today.

Which brings us to Matt Marsden, that gift that keeps on giving. Matt pointed out that somehow it was the Democrat's fault that this legislation didn't move out of the Republican controlled Senate Elections and Campaign Oversight Committee .

Yes, you read that right - it was Senate Republican obstruction, once again, that led to the creation of this problem. Were the Democrats supposed to somehow make committee chair Michelle McManus grow a conscience and get her to actually help citizens for a change? Apparently so.

The clerks support two bills, HB 4474 and HB 5739, which passed the House last year but are stuck in the Senate Elections and Campaign Oversight Committee. They would allow a person to vote in any county, city or township clerk's office in the state and would allow those who register to vote by mail to satisfy the ID requirement at any clerk's office.

Kaltenbach said they "obviously aren't getting cooperation from the Senate" and described the deputization process as going "to lengths to get some change." Land supports the concept of the bills.

Marsden said the clerks were "trying to find a way around election law," noting the Democrats failed to get no-reason absentee voting brought up in the Senate before the fall break.

Terri Lynn Land didn't stop this from happening in the first place. We will see if Land wants to step up and fight for clerks and voters now.

Stay tuned...