In February of 2020, Republican Majority Leader for Michigan Senate Mike Shirkey called efforts to encourage absentee voting in light of the COVID pandemic a “dangerous precedent.” However, Shirkey has voted absentee the last five times he voted and hasn’t voted at the polls since March of 2016.
It’s easy to write stories on human hypocrisy and easier still to write them on the Michigan GOP. But this isn’t about simple hypocrisy, human or political. It’s about a sustained disinformation campaign by Republican elected officials to disenfranchise the people they are meant to serve. That’s us, you and me and everyone around us in the state of Michigan, who are being manipulated into outrages while the Michigan GOP steals power and money from us.
Fortunately, Democratic and other leftist efforts, along with our excellent Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, have made absentee voting widely available throughout Michigan. (If you haven’t signed up you, can do so here.) But a disinformation campaign can spread misery and resentment and alter behavior, even when it doesn’t have the power to change the law.
Recently, during a round of textbanking in support of absentee voting, volunteers found that it wasn’t uncommon to receive responses that include “MAGA,” “TRUMP2020,” “commie pedophile,” and other unrelated, negative comments in support of the current president and/or propaganda, including lies about absentee voting being tied to voter fraud. The mere mention of absentee voting was drawing partisan vitriol – something not possible in a healthy political climate.
Michigan native and RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel was quoted recently saying, “We’re not babies. There’s tremendous fraud” regarding absentee voting. Voting records show McDaniel has taken advantage of absentee voting as far back as 2008 and hasn’t voted at the polls since August of 2018.
Then there was this story out of Wisconsin, reporting that the same republicans who were blocking voter access to absentee ballots were themselves regular absentee voters. It was clear that the same thing was being done to Michigan voters by Republican officials. Our own representatives, unable to find a legal avenue to deny us the ballot, were trying to make it difficult by turning it into an argument, a source of contention, by claiming the methods that they used to vote were unsafe for us. Michigan Republicans, like Shirkey, are happily lying to create discord around the mere act of voting. For them, if they can’t stop us from voting, they hope at least to keep us angry and discontent, turning on one another over whether or not we have the same rights at them.
What can you do? Let go of the urge to argue directly with disinformation, (no one likes being told they’re wrong and 5+ years of research shows that folks will become more entrenched.) Instead, sign up to vote absentee, be sure to speak positively about your experiences with absentee voting to friends and family, and join us to help get out the vote.
Dirk Mayhew and Ericka Terry are Democratic precinct delegates in Ann Arbor City W3 P8 and Ypsilanti City W1 P2 respectively.