Legislators Speak Out Against Barriers for African-American Voters

Election bills, Knollenberg comments show bias against population
Thursday, December 10, 2015

LANSING — State Representatives Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint) and Brian Banks (D-Detroit) and state Senator Coleman Young II (D-Detroit) are urging fellow legislators in the Senate to vote against Senate Bills 13 and 639 and House Bill 4724, which are biased against urban populations that are comprised largely of African-American voters. SB 13 and HB 4724 were passed by the House late last night by slim margins. SB 639 is still in committee in the Senate.

“It’s no secret that turnout fluctuates between midterm and presidential elections, and because Republicans have tried everything else to rig the vote, they are now attempting to disenfranchise the urban population, from limiting the hours a clerk’s office is open to the elimination of straight-ticket voting,” said Rep. Neeley, the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus (MLBC) vice chair. “It’s an attack on an entire group of people at the highest levels of state government, and it must stop.”

The passage of SB 13 and HB 4724 comes on the heels of Sen. Marty Knollenberg’s comments last week, where he stated that it’s impossible to “fix” African-American children because he “can’t make them white.” Knollenberg is the sponsor of SB 13.

“The rhetoric is following the nature of these bills, which is targeted at the African-American population,” said Rep. Banks, chair of the Detroit Caucus. “For any person, especially an elected official, to assume that some children need to be ‘fixed’ simply because of their skin color is outrageous and shameful.”

SB 13 and HB 4724 were tie-barred and made referendum proof, meaning voters can’t repeal the elimination of straight-ticket voting as they have done two previous times in the past.

“Republicans hold a majority in Michigan’s government, and they have been elected to that position to do what’s best for the people of this state,” said Sen. Young, a member of the MLBC. “They are not taking their responsibility seriously, and instead are pushing their own agenda to hold on to power by pushing aside urban voters instead of considering access for all.”