There’s just one problem: Michigan doesn’t require voters show ID.
Bridget Huff, a voting rights advocate, contacted her local clerk in Fort Gratiot, Michigan last Friday to get information on absentee voting due to a recent injury. She only asked for the clerk’s office’s hours, but was told she had to bring her photo identification with her.
Michigan law only requires that a photo identification be shown in the event of first-time voters who are voting absentee (the state has pretty restrictive laws regarding first-time voters), but other than that specific circumstance, no identification is legally required. A voter can fill out an affidavit instead.
Huff said she was deeply familiar with the law. She helps active-duty military vote and hosted information sessions on the state’s ballot proposals. When she corrected her clerk, she was told she was “technically” correct.
“[Clerks] are required to have affidavits for every ballot, absentee and standard. They are who trains poll workers. And even if all of that didn’t properly inform him, he had just admitted to me that IDs aren’t ‘technically’ required!” Huff told Grit Post.
Despite Huff’s conversation with her clerk, her township’s website still posted to Facebook, saying ID was required for absentee voters. That post appears to have been deleted some time on Monday.
“I was incensed after seeing that post,” said Huff.
But the issue is bigger than Fort Gratiot.
“The ACLU of Michigan sent a letter out last week trying to get ahead of this issue and remind folks that photo ID was not required,” said Sharon Dolente, Voting Rights Strategist at the ACLU of Michigan. “Normally when I point them to the law, because I’m not making this up, right? They normally address it. But not in all circumstances.”
Dolente’s letter to the municipal clerks of Michigan mentioned that this has been an issue in multiple past elections, both as misleading information given to voters and voters being told they must produce photo identification in order to vote.
“I can’t sit in every clerk’s office and I don’t have time to check 1,500 websites or Facebook pages so I really rely on voters to tell me,” Dolente told Grit Post. “I’m getting these reports and fixing them and I haven’t even had time to compile them into a spreadsheet.”
As such, Dolente can’t ballpark how many municipalities are operating on false or misleading information. She did say it was multiple jurisdictions but stopped short of the word “many.”
As for Fort Gratiot, the township clerk Robert Crawford denied speaking to anyone about ID requirements (and Dolente said he hasn’t returned her calls), but said that in 2016 around a dozen residents of Fort Gratiot filled out a ballot affidavit instead of providing photo identification.
“At this point I’m just trying to get the misinformation removed,” said Dolente.
Voters can call the OUR VOTE hotline at (866) 687-8683 on Election Day for expert assistance navigating voting laws.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.