If five Michigan GOP senators have their way, religious leaders will be legally permitted to threaten voters with excommunication, dismissal, or expulsion from their church if they do not vote as ordered in public elections. Yes, you read that correctly — these lawmakers are calling for a change in the Michigan Election Law to allow religious electoral extortion through intimidation.
Yesterday, Senators Patrick Colbeck, Mike Green, Tom Casperson, Jim Marleau, and Mike Shirkey introduced SB 832 amending Sec. 931 of PA 116 of 1954 to remove the criminal penalty for religious coercion of the electorate. Under current Michigan law, it is a misdemeanor to threaten voters into casting their ballots a particular way, or to compel them to refrain from voting altogether. The statute specifically prohibits religious leaders from using coercion to influence voting behavior.
Yet, these lawmakers plan to strike that section clean:
Under this amendment church leaders could, in effect, set-up a protection racket — pay-up with your vote parishioners, or go to hell.
The senators are leaving intact the section of PA 116 which deals with the crime of offering a voter an inducement of “valuable consideration” — defined as including, but “not limited to, money, property, a gift, a prize or chance for a prize, a fee, a loan, an office, a position, an appointment, or employment.” That would remain illegal.
So, by their reckoning — given the select manner in which they intend to amend the 62 year-old law, one wonders: Do these five lawmakers find church affiliation to be an asset of less than “valuable consideration?”
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Elections and Government Reform for consideration.