Tribal IDs allowed for Michigan elections

By Corey Williams
Detroit, Michigan (AP) 11-07

Audrey Washington didn’t know she needed to present photo identification to vote on November 6, and she wasn’t too happy about it, either.

“Why should have I to show my ID? I’ve been coming up here to vote all of this time, now I have to go through all of this. It’s just the principle,” said the 60-year-old Detroit resident. “I’ve been a registered voter for years. I didn’t have to do it the last time I voted.”

Voters across Michigan were being asked to either show photo identification or sign a short affidavit. It marked the first time the state’s photo ID law was in effect since it was passed 11 years ago.

About 340,000 of Michigan’s 7.18 million registered voters don’t have a driver’s license or state ID card, according to state officials.

But Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land said other forms of photo ID also were acceptable. Those included a U.S. passport, military photo ID, student photo ID from a high school or an accredited college, tribal photo ID, photo IDs issued by the federal or state governments and drivers licenses or personal identification cards issued by other states.

If they didn’t have a photo ID – or didn’t have it with them – voters could sign a short statement listing their name and address and swearing they are who they say they are.

Luckily, Washington said, she had her driver’s license in her wallet and was able to vote at New St. Paul Tabernacle church in Detroit.

Melvin McCurry, 68, was more prepared. He walked in to New St. Paul Tabernacle with his driver’s license in hand.

“You got to have your ID to get a vote. If you don’t have an ID you can’t vote. It’s as simple as that,” McCurry said.

About 50 people had voted in the church’s gymnasium through the morning, and all presented identification, said Ernestine Cox, a manager of the polling center.

Kelly Chesney, spokeswoman for the Michigan secretary of state’s office, said the election was for the most part “moving forward in a smooth and orderly fashion.”

Michigan has had a photo ID requirement on the books since 1996, but the law was ignored because Democrat Frank Kelley, then the state attorney general, ruled that it violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right to vote.

That changed this summer, when the five Republicans on the seven-member Michigan Supreme Court ruled the law is constitutional.

The move worried groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, which have argued against it.

“We’re getting complaints from all over the city,” Melvin “Butch” Hollowell, general counsel to the Detroit NAACP, said. “Voters are angry and confused about the voter ID process.”

Hollowell said the secretary of state’s office has failed to educate the public about the photo ID requirement.

“This is probably the biggest change in voting since the 1950s,” he said. “There have been no public hearings, virtually no public education and that is absolutely unacceptable.”

Associated Press writers Kathy Barks Hoffman in Lansing and Ron Vample in Detroit contributed to this report.