Michigan Election LawSenate Bill 754 is a piece of legislation that was introduced in the Michigan Senate on October 12, 2011 by Senators Jansen, Green and Robertson. The bill was later referred to the Senate’s Committee on Local Government and Elections.

This proposed law seeks to amend the 1954 Public Act 116 entitled the “Michigan Election Law.”

It proposes to add Section No. 497c, which states that when a person who applies in person to register to vote at a Department of State office, a designated voter registration center, the office of a County Clerk or the office of the Clerk of the City or Township where the applicant reside shall identify himself or herself by presenting an official state identification card issued to that person, an operator’s or chauffeur’s license or other generally recognized picture identification cards.

This proposed additional provision, if approved, would create a  problem to senior citizens who no longer drive and do not have a valid driver’s license.

Another issue arising from the bill is the perceived difficulty to be encountered by organizations helping in voters registration in their efforts to encourage members of the community to get out and vote during election time.

This is so because the bill mandates that organizations working to have people register to vote are to be required to provide an extensive amount of information that includes the name and address of every worker in that organization who wants to volunteer in helping people register to vote.

The bill also requires that any change in the information they submit is to be reported promptly to the Department of State as well.
I say without fear of contradiction that SB 754 creates barriers to the people’s involvement in the democratic process. If you are a volunteer and you encounter all these barriers, you would feel that the task is not worth time volunteering due to the additional problems you would encounter.

Aside from these barriers, the bill requires someone in your organization required to attend a training course developed by the Secretary of State. He is later required to train all other members of the organization on voters registration.

The bill does not specifically state where or how the training would be offered, making it vague and presumably inaccessible. And the worst provision is the requirement that the voter registration forms gathered by the organization within a week of an election must be turned in to the election authorities in just one business day.

These would additional burden to small organizations that rely on the services of volunteer workers.

The purpose of these non-profit organizations is to encourage volunteers to help increase the number of voters registered and eventual participation in the electoral process. But with all these added requirements, a lot of volunteers would be discouraged from doing their civic duty.

Also, there is an added responsibility for a third-party registration organization to keep the signed statements on file for not less than two years. The signed statements are to be made available to the Department of State upon request.

A third-party, voter-registration organization would also serve as a fiduciary of the voter-registration applications, ensuring that the voter-registration application would be promptly delivered to the Clerk of the County, City or Township where the applicant resides.

If you are the volunteer, would you accept this added responsibility?

I support any move to oppose unnecessary barriers to the constitutional rights of the citizens, and SB 754 is indeed an unnecessary barrier.

It is good to know what SB 754 is all about, and now I am urging everyone to let our legislators in Lansing not to support this bill.

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Willie is a teacher at the Detroit Public School. A very popular and influential leader in the Filipino-American community in Michigan, Dechavez is the incumbent Michigan state chairperson of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) and public relations officer of both the Filipino-American Community Council (FILAMCCO) and the Philippine American Community Center (PACCM). A native of Sorsogon, Philippines, he is also vice president of the Bicol Association of Michigan. He is recipient of numerous awards.

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