In this May 5, 2020 file photo, Angela Beauchamp fills out an absentee ballot at City Hall in Garden City, Mich. Michigan county and municipal clerks are finding it challenging to meet the needs of voters amid the coronavirus pandemic and following changes in 2018 when state voters approved of same-day voter registration and no-reason absentee voting. The Secretary of State’s office reported this week that over 1.5 million requests for absentee ballots have been made ahead of the Aug. 4 primary, more than three-and-a-half times the number than at the same time ahead of the 2016 election. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
In this May 5, 2020 file photo, Angela Beauchamp fills out an absentee ballot at City Hall in Garden City, Mich. Michigan county and municipal clerks are finding it challenging to meet the needs of voters amid the coronavirus pandemic and following changes in 2018 when state voters approved of same-day voter registration and no-reason absentee voting. The Secretary of State’s office reported this week that over 1.5 million requests for absentee ballots have been made ahead of the Aug. 4 primary, more than three-and-a-half times the number than at the same time ahead of the 2016 election. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Pat Morgan, a 65-year-old Lenawee County retiree, considers herself a fierce defender of democracy. She’s worried about the emerging efforts to restrict voting. 

MICHIGAN—Ed McBroom is a fourth generation dairy farmer in the Upper Peninsula. He’s a Republican. He’s also a state senator who led a comprehensive examination of Michigan’s 2020 election results which found that there was no widespread voter fraud in the state and that President Joe Biden won the election fair and square.

“Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan,” McBroom wrote in the report, which was published in June of 2021. “There is no evidence presented at this time to prove either significant acts of fraud or that an organized, wide-scale effort to commit fraudulent activity was perpetrated in order to subvert the will of Michigan voters.”

McBroom’s findings have been duplicated in other states in a direct repudiation of former President Donald Trump’s dangerous lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him due to widespread voter fraud. In reality, Trump lost the popular vote by 7 million votes and the electoral college count 306-232. 

And yet, that hasn’t stopped Trump or his Republican allies in state legislatures from trying to change how Americans vote.

Michigan Republicans’ Plan Would Make it Harder To Vote

Over the past year, Republican lawmakers in Michigan have used concerns about voter fraud to introduce 39 bills that would make it harder to vote by implementing stricter voter ID requirements, limiting the use of drop boxes to collect mail-in ballots, empowering partisan election observers to oversee elections, and requiring a supermajority of members on county election boards to agree to certify election results.

“[They’re] voter suppression bills—when it’s already been admitted that there was no widespread voter fraud—under the guise of election integrity,” said state Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden (D-Southfield). “It concerns me for the future of our democracy.”

While these bills would ordinarily be dead on arrival thanks to the presence of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Republicans are engaging in a deeply anti-democratic effort to exploit a loophole in the state constitution to pass those bills without Whitmer’s approval.

“They want to control everything,” Pat Morgan, a 65-year-old retiree living in Adrian, said of Republicans. “They are a threat to democracy.”

Nicole Iraola, an Ann Arbor-based immigration attorney, believes they’re clearly an attempt to limit turnout among Democrats. 

“Voting is one of the best parts of being in a democracy and I think that that’s how we should be able to have control over what happens and have a say in what type of country we live in,” Iraola said. “I think that the people who are trying to place these restrictions are trying to place them in a way that they know is going to affect a certain demographic of people and certain groups that traditionally vote for progressive candidates.”

Michael Traugott, a political scientist and research professor at the University of Michigan, views the GOP’s efforts as a dangerous threat to democracy.

“There’s been a continuing assault by Republicans on the process itself; the way in which votes are tabulated, about the reliability of the results, questions about fraud from all different kinds of angles, which I view as a set-up to challenging the results of the 2022 and the 2024 elections,” said Michael Traugott, a political scientist and research professor at the University of Michigan. “It’s not just the problem of 2020, it’s an attack on our system of elections and vote tabulation that is expected to be pressed going forward.”

‘They Are Trying To Corral Women Back Into The 1950s’: What’s At Stake In The Fight Over Voting Rights

Michigan Democrats have introduced a series of bills to protect and expand the right to vote. The bills would ensure that every city or township has at least one dropbox for mail-in ballots, expand access to mail-in ballots, and give election clerks more time to process mail-in ballots.

“Voting is a right. Can we improve our election system in Michigan? Absolutely,” Bolden said. “That’s what the bill package does.”

But Michigan Democrats have their hands tied in defending voting. Because Republicans hold a majority of seats in the state legislature, they can block these bills. 

Supporters of voting rights aren’t powerless though, and advocates continue to pressure Democrats in Washington D.C. to eliminate the filibuster—a rule that essentially requires 60 votes to pass most bills through the Senate—in order to pass a bill protecting the fundamental rights of voters.

That proposal, the Freedom to Vote Act—would improve election security by creating a flexible voter ID law, implementing same-day voter registration, creating minimum federal standards on mail voting, and making Election Day a public holiday. 

Since all 50 Senate Republicans oppose voting rights legislation, the only way to protect the right to vote in states would be to eliminate the filibuster. 

While the majority of Democratic senators are on board with reforming the filibuster to pass the Freedom to Vote Act—including Michigan’s own Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow—a few conservative Democrats have defended the rule.

Unless the right to vote is better protected and secured for every citizen, Traugott believes that American democracy will continue to backslide.

“My guess is the United States is in for a prolonged period of minority rule … because of these attempts to disenfranchise minority voters who disproportionately tend to support the Democratic Party,” he said.

The stakes of such a backslide are existential for many Michiganders. Morgan, the retiree in Adrian, is particularly worried about what might happen to women and other minorities if Republicans continue their attacks on democracy and erode voting rights. 

“They are trying to corral women back into the 1950s,” she said. “I feel that they want to take the advancements that people have made who are marginalized in society, who are minorities—they want to push them back to a time long ago.”