'Heinous, regressive, suppressive and discriminatory': Dems slam GOP voting restriction bills

The Michigan House of Representatives voted Thursday to concur with Senate versions of three election bills tightening requirements for absentee ballots and voter ID.

Senate Bill 303, introduced by Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), will require in-person voters and absentee voters to present their state IDs when going to cast a ballot. Currently, you can sign an affidavit of identity if you do not have an ID. The bill will also deny election officials the ability to send unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters. SB 303 was concurred in with a vote along party lines, 56-51.

Rep. Matt Hall (R-Battle Creek) was the first to speak on the House floor about the bills, saying they will ensure that voter confidence in elections is restored.

“The practice of many people throughout our state getting unsolicited applications could entice people to commit fraud," Hall said. “And for that reason, these bills will prohibit that today and will restore people's confidence in our election."

While Hall was the House Oversight Committee chair last year, he hosted Rudy Giuliani at a post-2020 election committee meeting where Giuliani took charge of the meeting to push election conspiracies that former President Donald Trump won.

Now-President Joe Biden beat Trump in Michigan by more than 154,000 votes. More than 250 state and local audits did not find evidence of widespread voting problems or fraud.

Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Twp.) later lambasted the Oversight Committee hearing featuring Giuliani, calling it a “sham hearing" that gave Giuliani and colleagues a “platform to spread Donald Trump's lies to the American people." He said these bills further perpetuate lies regarding the 2020 general election and that these bills will mostly harm communities of color.

“These bills are creating more issues for voters," Camilleri said. “[The bills are] solving problems that don't exist and ruining faith in our democracy. And we know that the negative effects of these bills would be felt most severely by communities that already struggle with representation."

Rep. Amos O'Neal (D-Saginaw) also spoke out against the bills, citing the U.S. history of suppressing the right to vote. He said people's votes “shouldn't depend on the whims of one or several untrained poll workers."

(The bills) are heinous, regressive, suppressive and discriminatory. … These bills chip away at the very foundation of our fundamental American rights.

– Rep. Amos O'Neal (D-Saginaw)

“We find ourselves back here, at the starting line of the 1965 Voting Rights Act," O'Neill said. “[The bills] are heinous, regressive, suppressive and discriminatory. … These bills chip away at the very foundation of our fundamental American rights."

Rep. Ann Bollin (R-Brighton), whose speech was interrupted halfway through by people chanting in the House gallery apparently in protest, said the bills will not work to prevent people from voting, but help people “vote secretly, independently, safely and securely."

“These bills will allow us a path to ensure that we have fair and free elections," Bollin said. “These bills will restore confidence in our elections. Voters want to know that their vote will count and that they and only they are casting their own ballot."

The bill's passage in the House also comes after Republicans tie-barred House Bill 5007 to SB 303. HB 5007, introduced by Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.), eliminates the $10 fee for issuing state ID cards, late renewals for a state ID or changing an address on a state ID. The bill was passed by the House along party lines.

Berman said in a press release following the passage of the bill that strengthening ID protections will help to make elections in Michigan more secure.

“Voter ID requirements are a popular, practical way to protect our elections against fraud," Berman said. “Strengthening ID protections will make our elections more secure, and providing free ID will ensure our elections are accessible for every Michigan voter."

Senate Bill 304 was also approved by the House on Thursday. The bill was originally introduced by Sen. Curtis VanderWall (R-Ludington) and allows voters who failed to show their photo ID at the ballot box six days to present a photo ID to their local clerk's office.

The bills will most likely be vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer vetoed voter restrictions bills earlier this month, insisting the bills were part of “calculated misinformation" regarding the 2020 election which Trump lost.

Republicans also recently received approval to begin gathering signatures for a ballot measure that aims to restrict voting access. If the petition, led by the Secure MI Vote campaign, were to get enough signatures, the GOP-controlled Legislature could first approve the measure before it goes before voters. The initiative would not be able to be vetoed by Whitmer under Michigan law.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Detroit man sentenced to 5 years probation for threats to Whitmer and Nessel

Robert Tesh, 34, of Detroit was sentenced Tuesday to five years of probation and $1,898 in fees after making “credible" death threats against Attorney General Dana Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Tesh pleaded guilty but mentally ill in August to the Wayne County Circuit Court. As part of his probation, Tesh must participate in mental health treatment where a psychiatric report will be required to be filed every three months until the completion of his probation. Tesh also will not be allowed to own or possess any firearms or weapons. When he was initially charged, he could have faced up to 20 years in prison.

Tesh made the threat on April 14, 2020, while speaking to an acquaintance on a social media messenger app. He was arrested at his home the same day he made the threats and was charged with false report or threat of terrorism.

Nessel submitted on Tuesday a statement to the court, writing “as a concerned citizen, and a loving wife and mother." She said the threats made like those made by Tesh have “deeply impacted" her family and left them in a state of fear.

“This is not how it should be," Nessel said. “The deluge of threats that public officials have faced in the last year is unprecedented and unacceptable. No public official should be frightened of doing their job. I have always supported the public's right to disagree and voice that disagreement, it's our First Amendment right as Americans. But when that disagreement crosses the line into a politically-motivated threat of violence, it must be prosecuted."

Nessel went on to say that threats like those made by Tesh are driving candidates away from public office and rejects that receiving threats should be a common part of public service work.

“As a public official, I receive death threats on a regular basis," Nessel said. “However, I fiercely reject the idea that those threats are 'just part of the job' of being a public official. No one goes into public service envisioning that death threats will become part of their daily life, and no one should."

A judge also has set a March 8 trial date for five men implicated in a right-wing plot to allegedly kidnap and kill Whitmer over her COVID-19 restrictions. The five pleaded not guilty. A sixth man involved, Ty Garbin, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to over six years in prison and is set to be a witness in the case.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Detroit man sentenced to 5 years probation for death threats to Gretchen Whitmer and Dana Nessel

Robert Tesh, 34, of Detroit was sentenced Tuesday to five years of probation and $1,898 in fees after making “credible" death threats against Attorney General Dana Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Tesh pleaded guilty but mentally ill in August to the Wayne County Circuit Court. As part of his probation, Tesh must participate in mental health treatment where a psychiatric report will be required to be filed every three months until the completion of his probation. Tesh also will not be allowed to own or possess any firearms or weapons. When he was initially charged, he could have faced up to 20 years in prison.

Tesh made the threat on April 14, 2020, while speaking to an acquaintance on a social media messenger app. He was arrested at his home the same day he made the threats and was charged with false report or threat of terrorism.

Nessel submitted on Tuesday a statement to the court, writing “as a concerned citizen, and a loving wife and mother." She said the threats made like those made by Tesh have “deeply impacted" her family and left them in a state of fear.

“This is not how it should be," Nessel said. “The deluge of threats that public officials have faced in the last year is unprecedented and unacceptable. No public official should be frightened of doing their job. I have always supported the public's right to disagree and voice that disagreement, it's our First Amendment right as Americans. But when that disagreement crosses the line into a politically-motivated threat of violence, it must be prosecuted."

Nessel went on to say that threats like those made by Tesh are driving candidates away from public office and rejects that receiving threats should be a common part of public service work.

“As a public official, I receive death threats on a regular basis," Nessel said. “However, I fiercely reject the idea that those threats are 'just part of the job' of being a public official. No one goes into public service envisioning that death threats will become part of their daily life, and no one should."

A judge also has set a March 8 trial date for five men implicated in a right-wing plot to allegedly kidnap and kill Whitmer over her COVID-19 restrictions. The five pleaded not guilty. A sixth man involved, Ty Garbin, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to over six years in prison and is set to be a witness in the case.


Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Michigan lawmaker introduces bill decriminalizing psychedelics

Michigan Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) introduced legislation last week that would decriminalize the use of psilocybin and mescaline — two plants and fungi commonly found in psychedelics.

This article was originally published at Michigan Advance

Senate Bill 631, which was co-sponsored by state Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit), would allow the possession, cultivation and delivery of the two types of psychedelics. Commercial production or sales of entheogenic plants or fungi would still be illegal, but practitioners would be able to charge fees for counseling, spiritual guidance, or a related service if the service utilizes an entheogenic plant or fungus.

In an interview with the Advance, Irwin contended psychedelics provide several benefits and prohibition is a waste of time and resources.

“These substances have medicinal value, they have religious significance and they have a very low propensity for abuse," Irwin said. “And so that's why I'm proposing to decriminalize the substance because it really makes no sense to spend any time or money arresting people and turning their lives upside down."

The trend in decriminalization efforts for psychedelics also comes after many states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana — another Schedule 1 drug. A majority of voters in Michigan passed Proposal 1 in 2018 which legalized recreational marijuana for those age 21 and older.

In Michigan, the Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution in September 2020 decriminalizing the use of psychedelics. The city also passed a resolution designating September as Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Awareness Month. In Grand Rapids, a vote is likely to happen this year as to if the use, possession, growing or gifting of psychoactive plants and fungi should be decriminalized in the city.

Other major U.S. cities, like Denver and Washington, D.C,. have decriminalized the use of psychedelics.

There's also been movement at the state level. Oregon was the first state to legalize psilocybin therapy in 2020, In California, lawmakers are moving closer to passing a bill that would decriminalize psychedelics in the state.

However, reform at the federal level has stalled. The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives voted against a proposal 140-285 in July that aimed to amend a spending bill to expand funding for research related to the medical use of psychedelics. But a report attached to spending bills in July, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies urged the need for psychedelic research to be conducted on how those drugs can benefit veterans suffering from mental illness.

Irwin said his proposed legislation would build off of decriminalization efforts in Ann Arbor and other communities to ensure no one is criminally penalized for utilizing the drugs.

Irwin also said the bill will contribute to efforts to reverse the effects of the War on Drugs — which has disproportionately affected communities of color since the 1970s. Federal restrictions on psychedelics began in 1970 after seeing an increase in psychedelic use in the 1960s.

“There are efforts in other communities across the state to decriminalize these substances and to stop wasting any police resource [and] turning people's lives upside down over it," Irwin said. “I'm really proud to be kind of starting up this conversation at the state level of why is it that we're continuing to engage this fail in government policy of prohibition? Why are we continuing to prosecute the war on drugs in ways that don't help us and lead to mass incarceration?"

Psychedelics are currently classified as a Schedule-1 drug in the U.S., meaning the drug has “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse."

However, recent studies have shown that psychedelics may help patients with crippling mental illnesses such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction. In a study published last year, it was found that 71% of people with a major depressive disorder had a more than 50% reduction in symptoms within a month of taking psilocybin. Half of the participants even entered remission after using psilocybin for a month.

Irwin emphasized that the legislation will rid people of the ugly choice of having to choose between prioritizing their health and safety or following the law.

“Fixing that for those people and giving our institutions an opportunity to research and learn more about why these substances work for some people can be a great benefit to many people who are struggling with mental illness," Irwin said. “I think there are a number of benefits that can come out of [this] legislation."

Myc Williams, spokesperson for Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor, spoke to the Advance about the bill's ability to decriminalize the use of psychedelics. Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor is an organization that focuses on helping neighboring towns decriminalize psychedelics while also pushing for decriminalization at a state level.

Williams said the use of psychedelics goes beyond just having medicinal value, but can also change an individual's everyday life. He also highlighted that the use of psychedelics has been used in cultural and spiritual practices for centuries.

“People have found spiritual purpose [and] have found better practices in their daily life," Williams said. “Whether it be appreciation for the little things in life, family, and nature. And so this isn't strictly a medical thing, this isn't strictly a spiritual thing, but this is for the well-being of every individual and larger communities across the state."

Research institutions such as John Hopkins University and the University of California, Berkeley, have also recently opened centers dedicated to psychedelic research. Studies coming out of research institutions have indicated that psychedelics can be safely administered and help people with a myriad of mental health issues.

In a 2006 study at John Hopkins University, it was found that 67% of participants who received psilocybin versus a placebo “rated the experience with psilocybin to be either the single most meaningful experience of his or her life or among the top five most meaningful experiences of his or her life."

Williams went on to praise the role research has in destigmatization and decriminalization efforts, highlighting that recent studies examining the use of psychedelics have “overwhelmingly [been] in support of changing the laws around these substances."

“To deny that relationship with nature is in and of itself criminal if you ask me," Williams said. “All this [bill] really does is [protect] accessibility… because [psychedelics] are safe. Because they don't require a doctor's supervision. And when the medical model comes, [it will come], but at least we'll have protected the people of Michigan's access to these substances first."


Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Trump still wants a so-called 2020 election 'audit' in Michigan, according to state GOP co-chair

Former President Donald Trump still won't let go of his 2020 loss in Michigan.

He called Michigan Republican Party Chair Ron Weiser about a so-called audit of Michigan's 2020 election, according to remarks made by Michigan GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock. It's not clear when the call took place.

This article was originally published at Michigan Advance

The call was first reported by the Detroit News, which obtained a recording of the 14th Congressional District Republican Committee's picnic where Maddock discussed the conversation.

When asked about the probability of an audit taking place, Maddock put a spotlight on the audit run by Trump backers that took place in Maricopa County, Ariz., under the order of the GOP-controlled Arizona Senate that doesn't meet standards set by election officials. The process was chaotic, as the Arizona Mirror has reported, and results of the audit still have not been released.

“President Trump called and spoke to Chairman Weiser, and they had a conversation," Maddock told the crowd. “And Chairman Weiser said that he's going to pay close attention to what happens coming out of Arizona."

The Michigan Legislature would have to initiate another audit process. Maddock is married to state Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford). Both were in Washington, D.C., for pro-Trump protests before the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to overturn the 2020 election results.

More than 250 election audits have been conducted in Michigan by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and local election clerks. Each found no evidence of fraud or concern about the security of the state's election.

Current President Joe Biden beat Trump in the state by over 154,000 votes.

Meshawn Maddock noted that Arizona would only need about 10,000 votes to supposedly show a Trump victory, while “Michigan would need 150,000." She said “it was a fair thing for the chair to say to the president, 'Let's see what happens in Arizona and we'll look at it again.'"

In a statement to the Advance, Michigan GOP spokesperson Sarah Anderson did not mention the phone call between Trump and Weiser or the potential election audit, but did express that Weiser and the Michigan GOP have an interest in making elections in Michigan more “secure."

“With a large number of voters (Republicans, Democrats, and Independents) not trusting the integrity of our elections, the Michigan Republican Party and Chairman Weiser are absolutely interested in securing elections and restoring faith in the process," Anderson said.

This week, Michigan Republicans launched the Secure MI Vote ballot initiative to restrict voting. Dozens of bills have been introduced, and several passed, in the GOP-led Legislature, following the trend in 47 other states after Trump's 2020 loss.

In Michigan, the Legislature has the power to approve a citizen-led petition and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would have no power to veto. This is the technique that was successfully used by the conservative Unlock Michigan group to overturn a 1945 law Whitmer had used early in the COVID-19 pandemic to issue health orders.

Maddock discussed both the voting restriction petition and a new one from Unlock Michigan that would further restrict local and state health orders. Unlock Michigan has raised $2.8 million in direct contributions for their efforts, with their third-highest donor being Weiser, who donated $100,000.

Maddock revealed later in the meeting on Sunday that Weiser has given the Michigan GOP $2 million since he was elected chair earlier this year. Under Michigan campaign finance law, it is often hard to track money given to political parties.

“He put $2 million into a separate account that is for county parties and district parties to raise money if their people will get out and knock doors," Maddock said. “These are real dollars out of his personal funds."

Republican activists were clamoring for a so-called “forensic audit" earlier this year. In June, activists delivered 7,000 signed affidavits to Republican leaders calling for one. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson tweeted that “a forensic audit is not a thing,"

Rep. Steve Carra (R-St. Joseph) also introduced HB 5091 later in June that would establish a bipartisan audit board to conduct a “forensic audit" of the 2020 general election. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Government Operations, where bills have previously gone to die.

Trump has been keeping an eye on Michigan. He sent out an email in June targeting Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and Oversight Chair Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) after the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee released a 35-page report concluding that there is was no evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

In a statement on Aug. 12, Trump again critiqued Republicans for “standing in the way" of a “forensic audit" in Michigan.

“The voters are demanding it because they have no confidence in their elections after the rigged 2020 presidential election scam." Trump said.


Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Pro-Trump 'Kraken' attorneys sanctioned for 'historic and profound abuse of the judicial process'

Linda Parker, U.S. District Judge of the Eastern District of Michigan, on Wednesday ordered sanctions for “Kraken" attorneys, including former President Donald Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, for spreading false claims while litigating the results of the 2020 general election.

This article was originally published at Michigan Advance

Michigan attorneys Greg Rohl, Scott Hagerstrom and Stefanie Junttila also were sanctioned. Hagerstrom is a longtime GOP operative who ran Trump's 2016 Michigan campaign and the Michigan branch of the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity.

Trump lost Michigan by more than 154,000 votes to now-President Joe Biden. But Parker and the other attorneys filed a lawsuit to “release the Kraken" against the state as part of a nationwide effort of convervative attorneys to overturn the 2020 general election in favor of Trump. Every suit failed to show widespread fraud.

Over 250 election audits conducted by state and local officials concluded that there was no evidence of fraud or concern for the security of the state's election.

In a six-hour hearing last month, Parker ridiculed the “Kraken" litigation team's sworn affidavits that were full of unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

“I don't think I've ever seen an affidavit that makes so many leaps. This is really fantastical," Parker said at the July 12 hearing. “So my question to counsel here is: How could any of you as officers of the court present this affidavit?"

The opening paragraph of Parker's 110-page opinion this week began by saying that the lawsuit represents a “historic and profound abuse of the judicial process."

“It is one thing to take on the charge of vindicating rights associated with an allegedly fraudulent election," Parker wrote in the opinion. “It is another to take on the charge of deceiving a federal court and the American people into believing that rights were infringed, without regard to whether any laws or rights were in fact violated. This is what happened here."

The opinion went on to say that the sanctions would be an action to ensure that attorneys did not file similar lawsuits in the future.

“Sanctions are required to deter the filing of future frivolous lawsuits designed primarily to spread the narrative that our election processes are rigged and our democratic institutions cannot be trusted," the opinion read.

Both the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan asked federal courts to sanction the lawyers involved with the case. Rudy Giuliani, another pro-Trump lawyer pursuing cases in other states, has had his law license temporarily suspended in Washington, D.C., and New York for making baseless claims about the election in court.

The lawyers have been ordered to reimburse attorneys' fees paid by the city of Detroit and Michigan state officials. The lawyers will also be required to take legal education classes while their case will be referred to the Michigan State Attorney Grievance Commission, where they may face disciplinary action.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, all Democrats, have also sought to disbar the attorneys.

In a statement following the ruling, Whitmer praised the court for ruling to reject the enablers of the “Big Lie" that seeks to undermine America's elections by falsely claiming Trump won.

“Today's ruling sends a clear message: those who seek to overturn an American election and poison the well of American democracy will face consequences." Whitmer said.

Nessel said she was pleased that the court had “ensured there is accountability for the attorneys who perpetuated meritless arguments in court."

“It has remained abundantly clear from the outset that this lawsuit aimed to do nothing more than undermine our democratic process," Nessel said. “I appreciated Judge Parker's thoroughness in the hearing last month, and I appreciate the unmistakable message she sends with this ruling — those who vow to uphold the Constitution must answer for abandoning that oath."


Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

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