By Kathleen Gray/Detroit Free Press
The Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, the community organization founded by Rev. Al Sharpton, will march from Detroit to Lansing later this month to protest voting laws that are awaiting Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature.
The group, which will walk along Grand River from Detroit to the state Capitol on July 23-27, also wants a repeal of the state’s controversial emergency manager law immediately placed on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
“Voting rights are very personal to us,” said Rev. Charles Williams II, president of the local chapter of the network. “We can see very clearly what’s behind the Republican party’s tactics.”
The laws, which were passed by the legislature last month, would require voters to present identification to get an absentee ballot and declare that they are U.S. citizens both in registering to vote and when applying for a ballot on election day.
Republicans in the legislature believe the bills will prevent voter fraud while Democrats contend that it will discourage some people, especially minorities, from voting.
Snyder hasn’t said if he will sign the bills.
A petition drive to repeal the emergency manager law got enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. But the state Board of Canvassers voted 2-2 on a challenge to the petition on the grounds that the font size on the actual petitions was not the right size. The tie vote kicked the issue off the November ballot.
The state Court of Appeals ruled that it should be on the ballot, but the supporters of the emergency manager law have appealed that ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court.
Williams said that if Snyder vetoes the voter laws and gets the emergency manager repeal on the ballot, the group will back off its protest march.
“Thirty-nine other states have these exact same voter suppression laws and they are always sponsored by Republicans,” Williams said, adding he hopes Snyder vetoes the legislation today (Monday), on the anniversary of the day that former President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.