Good for Michigan governor Rick Snyder

Michigan’s GOP governor does the right thing on voter ID laws.

Republican politicians across the nation are pushing voter ID laws and similar measures ostensibly designed to thwart (the largely fictional problem of) voter fraud. Despite various flimsy justifications offered, most of these new laws are obviously intended to prevent or to hinder voting among traditional Democratic constituencies, particularly low-income people, the less-educated, and nonwhites. Various Republican politicians have said as much, occasionally captured through incautious comments captured on video or the occasional cellphone recording. When laws are enacted on a partisan basis which allow (to take one obvious Texas example) prospective voters to use concealed weapon permits but not state university photo id cards, we’re long past the point of pretending this is a cute inside-baseball story.

It’s natural to view these efforts as continuations of GOP race-pandering from the  “southern strategy” to Willy Horton. This might be unfair. Maybe these voter ID laws just reflect the more bipartisan tradition of election-stealing we’ve seen before, certainly here in Chicago.

Whichever–it’s disgusting to seek political advantage by preventing other people from lawfully voting. Such tactics undermine Americans’ confidence in the legitimacy of our political process. The also unavoidably stain Republicans’ reputation and legacy, as that party continues its post-1964 self-deportation from a position of respect within minority communities.

Some GOP politicians have chosen a more decent path. Florida’s Governor Crist did the decent thing regarding felony enfranchisement.  (His clownish successor, Rick Scott, is another matter.)  Now Michigan governor Rick Snyder has done the decent thing, too. He surprised and disappointed many Michigan Republicans by refusing to sign similar bills. As Eric Kleefeld described in TPM:

One measure would have required voters to reaffirm that they are U.S. citizens, and would have instituted photo-ID requirements for voters receiving an absentee ballot at a local government office. Another would have required training for people, companies and organizations participating in voter registration. The Grand Rapids Press reports that Republicans in the legislature argued that the measures were needed to combat voter fraud, while Democrats charged that the bills would unfairly target poor, minority and elderly people who favor the Democratic Party.

The New York Times’ Steven Yaccino rightly observed: “The vetoes are an election-year rarity for the party, which has pressed for tougher voter identification laws nationwide.”

Good for Governor Snyder. I don’t know that much about him or whether this was a profitable political move. It was a rare honorable move in a pretty dirty campaign season.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

16 thoughts on “Good for Michigan governor Rick Snyder”

  1. Harold:

    Good catch, but being a long-time Michigan politico, I can add some nuance regarding Synder…

    Overall, I would have to say that he is more-or-less running Michigan as a technocrat, left-of-center on many of his public policies. The most notable example: A large part of his budget when he came into office in 2010 were tax increases, on elderly pensions being subject to state income tax (in a state that is increasingly graying, with this group being one of the few bastions of support for Michigan Republicans), along with some other stealth tax increases, especially on property taxes. He has shied away from social issues as well.

    I am pleased with his veto but I am not all that surprised by it. I think the State Senate has a large enough Republican majority to over-turn his veto, but I am not so sure about the Republican majority in the State House, it it is large enough one, or two if it has the will to challenge him on this…


    1. From what I’ve heard of Snyder, he shies away from social issues and does have a technocratic bent. The Teabaggers were very unhappy when he won the primary. However, he has little sympathy for public sector unions or local government. I would call him a right-of-center member of the reality-based community. However, Frank has local knowledge, and I’m only relying on what I’ve read in the papers.

  2. Harold,

    Without taking a position on the partisan valence of concealed weapons permits versus university id cards, is it obvious that they in fact are subject to the same personal identification requirements for issuance.

  3. To go even a little further inside-baseball here, absentee votes are actually at much higher risk of fraud than in-person ones, but ballots requested by mail are the most dubious. (And, anecdotally at least, most likely to skew republican in the usual-suspect areas.)

  4. Isn’t Snyder the guy famous for getting enacted and then crudely exploiting a law that let him depose elected local governments and employ autocratic, unaccountable city managers selected by him and at his whim, paid by the local government and with the power to abrogate contracts?

      1. Isn’t Snyder also using this law to privatize school systems?

        I have to say the word, “technocratic,” which is new to me, is cute but lacks enough wallop to really convey what is happening in Michigan, because what is happening is terrifying alarming if you have any affection for the idea of democracy.

        1. Democracy gave us Detroit. It gave us East St. Louis. It gave us Governor Schwarzenegger.

          Any form of government based on the same principle as Family Feud should be met not with approbation but with peals of laughter, a barrage of withering ridicule, and stone-throwing contempt.

        2. Democracy gave us Detroit. It gave us East St. Louis. It gave us Governor Schwarzenegger. It gave us both LBJ and Nixon.

          Any form of government based on the same principle as Family Feud should be met not with approbation but with peals of laughter, a barrage of withering ridicule, and stone-throwing contempt.

          1. 1. And your alternative to democracy is . . .?
            2. A lot of people on this thread like LBJ.

    1. Well if this a reality based community it should be said that Emergency Managers appointed to Detroit Schools, Pontiac , Ecorse, Benton Harbor, Flint and 3 other locations before Governor Snyder entered into office. The P72 Emergency Manager law allowed the elected officials to be booted out. The only new part of the Law was that Unions are forced to negotiate within 90 days if not the Emergency Manager calls the shots. For those who say well the EM law allows the EM to sell off city assets should remember it was the EM who sold the Silverdome under Granholm.

    1. That is what “technocracy” meant, back in the day. But people are always happy to hijack the prestige of natural science and engineering. Today, “technocracy” means rule by bankers, or those who see the world from a banker’s perspective.

      1. Isn’t there another word for this…well, it may be true that word I can’t quite remember doesn’t exactly mean “rule by bankers, or those who see the world from a banker’s perspective” … I think the word I can’t quite remember is described as “when corporate and state power merge,” so it would be a little broader than just banks, I guess…it’s on the tip of my tongue, how frustrating this is…

        1. Dear Eb,

          Unless you are a giant egg words do not mean only what you wish them to mean.

          “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
          “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
          “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.”
          (Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)

          Technocracy just plain doesn’t mean rule by bankers.

          And, as Ohio Mom points out, there are other words which actually do mean that.

  5. In an otherwise unobjectionable post, Harold Pollack says:

    It’s natural to view these efforts as continuations of GOP race-pandering from the “southern strategy” to Willy Horton.

    The Willy Horton commercial was 100% accurate and not terribly misleading. It brought up and addressed a legitimate policy issue. It was a policy ad. It was far less inflammatory than the question posed by Black CNN journalist Bernard Shaw’s question to Gov. Dukakis, roughly, “Gov. Dukakis, if some dude raped your wife, would you be in favor of the death penalty then?”

    The Willy Horton ad is unfairly maligned by otherwise reasonable (if not always correct) American liberals who lose any ability to perform think critically when the issue at hand is race-related. Go ahead and watch it.

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