State Watch

Michigan college Dems sue state over voting laws, claim they discriminate against young people

Democratic students at two Michigan universities announced Friday that they have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (R), arguing the state's voting laws discriminate against young voters.

College Democrats at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University as well as the Michigan Federation of College Democrats are challenging state laws that require a voter's residence to match the address listed on their driver's license and one that those registering to vote via mail or third-party registration drives must cast a ballot in person the first time they vote.

"Young voters in Michigan have historically, and to this day, been the target and victims of voting rules and requirements that are both intended to and have had the effect of making it ... more difficult for them to ... exercise their right to participate in Michigan's elections," reads the lawsuit filed in federal court on Thursday, according to The Detroit Free Press.

"[The requirements] place nearly insurmountable barriers between many young voters and their fundamental right to vote," the lawsuit argues, according to the Free Press. 

The Detroit News noted that the lawsuit targets Elections Director Sally Williams in addition to Johnson. Attorneys from the law firm Perkins Coie filed the complaint, the newspaper reported.

In addition to challenging the state voting laws, the lawsuit also targets former state lawmaker and U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R) for allegedly producing the law that forces college students to vote where their parents reside. 

"The legislative history of Rogers' Law shows that, at the time the law was proposed, legislators were well aware of the disproportionate and disenfranchising impact its matching-address requirement would have on young voters, particularly college students, and that it was intended to have that very impact," the suit argues, according to the Free Press. 

"We're taken by surprise with what is seemingly an odd lawsuit, which was litigated almost 20 years ago in federal court," Fred Woodhams, a spokesperson for Michigan's Department of State, said in a statement to The Hill. 

"For more than 20 years, residents have been able to conveniently update their address for both driver's license and voting purposes."

Woodhams added that the timing of the suit "seems suspect" given the November midterm elections are only months away.

Updated at 3:02 p.m.

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