Mayor Dobies: Every American deserves an equal voice at the ballot box
Jackson has a legacy in championing democracy; we are vanguards at the intersection of civil rights and voting rights. In 1854, while our town hosted politicians and newspapers advocating abolition of slavery, our train station was a hub for the Underground Railroad, helping formerly enslaved people on their path to freedom. Jackson’s leader at the time, Governor Austin Blair, was a pioneer in supporting efforts to give women and black citizens the right to vote.
In Michigan we are proud of our contributions in making the U.S. a more equal, participatory democracy — just as our Founding Fathers had envisioned. As the Mayor of Jackson and a fierce advocate for the people of Michigan, I am more committed than ever to upholding this legacy, especially in the face of overt attempts to reverse that course for partisan gain.
Here’s the rub: Michigan Republicans recently introduced more than three dozen bills that, as history has shown, make it more difficult for minority communities to vote. Among the more controversial provisions forbid local clerks from making absentee ballot applications more easily accessible, and restrict access to convenient ballot drop boxes. Some bills allowed the photography and videotaping of the counting of personal ballots, and mandated applicants mail photocopies of state IDs to qualify for absentee ballots.
Setting identity theft concerns aside, many of these voter restrictions disproportionately disenfranchise poor people and racial minorities. This is not my opinion; it is substantiated by history. And it distorts our democracy.
Michigan’s federal representatives have a critical opportunity to rebuke any attempts by state officials to adopt discriminatory voting practices. And with Michigan and other states moving forward to pass legislation that could impose the most sweeping contractions of ballot access since the Jim Crow era, the stakes are higher than ever.
That’s why I encourage Senators Stabenow and Peters to work to quickly pass SR1 — the For the People Act.
The For the People Act is a commonsense package of election reforms that sets a national, uniform standard for ballot access and would expand early and absentee voting. It would make Election Day a federal holiday, helping more vulnerable populations, like seniors, veterans, and the working class, reach the ballot box. At the same time, the Act would ensure that state and local governments have the resources and voting equipment needed to safeguard elections.
Another critical reform under the For the People Act is the effort to remove dark money, foreign influence and partisan gerrymandering from our election process. Billionaires and corporate special interests shouldn’t be able to buy control over our democracy. We need to put power back where it belongs — into the hands of the hardworking people of this nation.
These reforms are common sense. In fact, many of them were rightfully put into effect by Michigan voters with the passage of Proposal 2018–02 and 2018–03 already. We should make sure those good government reforms are enjoyed by all Americans.
Our national creed that all men are created equal only perseveres by continual work to expand and strengthen participation in our democracy. It is my hope that we can pass the For the People Act, and further solidify our city and state reputation in advancing civil and voting rights.
NOTE TO EDITOR: Derek Dobies is the Mayor of the City of Jackson. The Jackson City Council recently voted 7–0 to adopt a resolution in support of the For The People Act.