It’s very exciting to see the intense interest that
University students are taking in this election. Every indication
is that a record number of college students, here and elsewhere in
the state and nation, will vote in this election. This is as it
should be, because no one is more affected by the outcome of this
presidential election than young people. It is your tuition that is
going up because of cutbacks at the state and federal level. It is
your chance to get the job you are seeking that is at stake. It is
the air you breathe and the water you drink that need to be
protected. It is your friends and relatives in the military who are
losing life and limb because of a reckless and needless war.
Unfortunately, the state of Michigan has put many obstacles in
your path to prevent you from voting. In 2000, U.S. Rep. Mike
Rogers (then a Republican state senator) sponsored a law to require
people with Michigan driver’s licenses to have the same
address on their voter registration and driver’s license.
This law was intended to depress the student vote on college
campuses, and it did. Rogers very narrowly defeated Democratic
candidate Dianne Byrum in the 2000 congressional election, thanks
to lower than usual turnout at Michigan State University.
It is very important for students to have the right to vote in
the community in which they reside, so that they can have a say in
local issues. Many of the laws governing tenant-landlord relations
and housing safety, for example, are set at the local level and
affect students’ daily lives.
I am delighted that many University students took steps to
register to vote in Ann Arbor, despite the difficulties. Many
student organizations have worked hard to make this happen, and
they deserve hearty thanks and congratulations.
If you want to verify that you are on the voter rolls, and where
your polling place is, you can go to Publius.org and look up your
name. I recommend you do this, to avoid any surprises at the
Speaking of surprises at the polls, please be aware that there
is a history of voter intimidation at precincts where students
vote, right here in Ann Arbor. Here are a few other things to keep
in mind about your right to vote:
No one should ask you questions while you are in line to vote.
If anyone asks you any questions — such as, may I see your
identification? Is your child support up to date? Do you have a
criminal record? — they are violating the law. Do not answer
their questions. Do not leave. Tell an election official inside
that someone bothered you while you were waiting to vote.
You may bring voting information inside the polling place with
you. Just don’t display it to other voters.
If your name is not on the voter list, you must show ID or your
vote will not be counted on election day. If your name is not on
the voter list, you can refuse to show ID and will be given a
ballot, but it will not be counted on election day, because of the
way Congress wrote the Help America Vote law. So to be sure your
vote is counted, show your ID if your name isn’t on the list.
If your name is on the list, no ID is required.
If you have been convicted of a crime, you still have the right
to vote in Michigan, as long as you are not now in jail or
You may use an absentee ballot if you are:
-expecting to be out of your city or township the whole time the
polls are open
-unable to get to the polls without help
-60 or older
-in jail awaiting arraignment or trial
-are an election official in precinct where you are not
Michigan law does NOT allow you to use an absentee ballot if you
are voting for the first time and did not register in person with
the clerk or secretary of state.
If you registered by Internet, by mail, through a volunteer a
registration drive or at a kiosk, you were NOT registered in
person. If you will need to vote by absentee ballot, check with
your clerk or the secretary of state to see if there is any way you
will be allowed to vote absentee.
Help change the system
If all this sounds unnecessarily complicated, it is. We should
be making it easier for people to get access to the polls, not
harder. With two other senators, I have introduced legislation to
repeal the driver/voter address law (SB 1406 and 1408) and also to
allow no reason absentee voting (SB1405), to allow first-time
absentee voting regardless of how you registered (SB 1407) and to
allow voter registration on the day of the election (SB 699). I am
still waiting for legislative leaders to give any of these bills a
hearing, so please contact your state representative and state
senator to let them know you support these bills. You can find out
who your legislators are at www.michiganlegislature.org.
You can call the city clerk at 994-2725 if you have any
questions about the voting process.
I hope to see you at the polls!
Brater is a Democratic state senator representing
Michigan’s 18th district.