After going virtual last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NAACP Detroit's 66th annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner returned to Downtown Detroit on Sunday night.
The crowd was much smaller than past years due to COVID-19 safety guidelines, but about a thousand people still came out to hear a list of speakers, and to watch Gov. Gretchen Whitmer veto recent legislation on voting.
On Thursday, a number of bills came across the governor's desk, focused on election laws. In front of a crowd last night, she brought out a veto letter and signed it, vowing to do the same to similar bills.
"I've done a lot of ceremonies when I sign bills, but tonight, iIm going to sing the veto letter," Whitmer said.
She was surrounded by Secretary of State Joceyln Benson, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and NAACP leadership when she vetoed the four bills.
"It is shameful. this is no more than political rascality," Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, the president of the NAACP Detroit chapter, said.
Anthony criticized the intent of the bills, along with other election laws being passed around the country.
"This is civil rights, this is human rights, this is voting rights, this is your rights, this is our rights," he said.
The four bills that were vetoed would have made it illegal to:
- Connect voting machines to the internet
- Limit access to state voter files
- Expand eligible polling stations
The bills mainly passed with bipartisan support.
"We must continue to put good forth policy," said Republican Rep. Ann Bollin of Brighton, during a house session Thursday. "There’s always room for improvement. These are enhancements to our current election law.”
However, some democrats pointed out how polling machines are never connected to the internet, and the bill is already common practice.
“These types of bills are a sign of a do-nothing legislature that pats itself on the back for doing nothing," Senator Jeremy Moss, a Democrat from Southfield, said about one of the bills during a session on Thursday. "It perpetuates the big lie. It perpetuates the false notion and conspiracy theories that there are large gaps in our election law that are filled with criminal activity.”
However republican and former Secretary of State Ruth Johnson of Grand Blanc spoke in favor of making those practices law with the bill.
“It's a good idea to take this bill, and take the best practices and put them into law so they can’t be changed,” Johnson said during Thursday's session.
The bills were four of 39 focused on elections in the state. Whitmer vowed the rest won’t pass her desk.
“Should those other 35 bills come they will meet the same fate," Whitmer said. "But they will not stop and we will not either.”