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Civil Rights Groups Urge Hundreds of City Clerks Statewide to Remind Voters That Photo ID Is Not Required to Cast a Ballot

DETROIT—Hoping to protect voters from false information about ID requirements at the polls, the ACLU of Michigan, the Michigan State Conference NAACP and the Brennan Center for Justice today sent a joint letter to 269 city clerks statewide urging them to post clear, accurate information about Michigan’s ID law at voting sites.

Under Michigan law, those individuals who bring picture ID with them to the polls are required to show their ID before voting. However, registered voters can cast ballots without picture ID if they don’t have ID or failed to bring it with them to the polls. The only requirement is that they sign a simple affidavit form available at each polling location.

“Every election, we hear horror stories about clerks putting up signs falsely telling voters that they can’t vote without photo ID,” said Michael J. Steinberg, Legal Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “This year, we felt it was critical that we be proactive and make sure that no voters were prevented or deterred from exercising their fundamental right to vote based on misinformation.”

Read the Joint Letter Asking City Clerks Throughout Michigan to Post Accurate Information about Voting Law

The letter urges that city clerks use the accurate notice about voter identification that was prepared by the Secretary of State, which is available here.

“The danger in posting misleading signs is that they could easily deter eligible voters from exercising their fundamental right to vote,” the letter reads. “Studies show that 1 out of 10 voting-aged citizens do not have a current, government-issued picture ID. In addition, picture ID laws have a disproportionate and unfair effect on low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, students, senior citizens and voters with disabilities.”

In the past, the organizations have sent individual letters to clerks after receiving complaints about violations of election law or reports of misleading information being posted at polls. This year marks the first year that the groups have sent a joint letter ahead of the election.

“For many communities, the right to vote has come at a steep cost,” said Khalilah V. Spencer, who is chairperson of the state NAACP’s Legal Redress Committee. “As a result, we all have to safeguard that right vigilantly—and the first step to protecting and empowering voters is making sure that they’re properly and fully informed. At a time when voter ID laws have been central to discriminatory efforts to suppress the vote, especially in black and brown communities, we think it’s critical that clerks properly inform their constituents that you don’t have to have photo ID to vote in Michigan.”

 A Brennan Center attorney highlighted the importance of educating voters on the rules.

“Every American’s vote and voice counts in our democracy,” said Adam Gitlin, counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “Voters should know that even if they don’t bring a picture ID to the polls in Michigan, they can still vote and make their voices heard on Election Day.”

For many communities, the right to vote has come at a steep cost. As a result, we all have to safeguard that right vigilantly—and the first step to protecting and empowering voters is making sure that they’re properly and fully informed.