Updated: Feb 28
Feb. 27, 2023
by Patrice Johnson
Big Government versus the little guy. Who's intimidating whom?
Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023 at 10:30 AM, the House Elections Standing Committee will hear public comments on five bills of great consequence. Please consider attending and/or contacting your reps to express your opposition to all of these bills except HB 4033. Two of the Fatal Four bills, so to speak, threaten to silence citizen participation in our elections.
Second Amendment advocates are addressing the anti-gun bills, so this article, instead, examines HB 4129 and HB 4130. These two so called “anti-intimidation” bills represent clear and present dangers to our Constitutional right to free speech. If enacted, the tie-barred (linked) bills would infringe on every citizen’s duty to help oversee fair elections. These bills stand to discourage citizen watchdogs.
The Michigan Court of Appeals recently affirmed that anti-intimidation laws already exist. In October 2020, the court ruled against Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for attempting to institute rules that resembled today’s HB 4129. She had overstepped, the Detroit Free Press reported, because "Voter intimidation is — and remains — illegal under current Michigan law," the panel said. (Michigan Court of Appeals denies Benson appeal, says open carry at polls is legal)
Current state law prohibits intimidation:
(1) A person is guilty of ethnic intimidation if that person maliciously, and with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person's race, color, religion, gender, or national origin, does any of the following:
(a) Causes physical contact with another person.
(b) Damages, destroys, or defaces any real or personal property of another person.
(c) Threatens, by word or act, to do an act described in subdivision (a) or (b), if there is reasonable cause to believe that an act described in subdivision (a) or (b) will occur.
--(MCL 750.147b Ethnic intimidation)
Nevertheless, the Democrats, having gained control of both houses of the state legislature, have dusted off their failed power grab and re-introduced it as HB 4129 and HB 4130.
A bridge too far
The squidgy language of HB 4129 and 4130 should send a chill into every reader’s bones. In the stroke of a pen, the bills' sponsors seek to redefine intimidate from actions to feelings. Sec. 931b(b) of HB 4129 reads:
“Intimidate” means to commit harassing conduct that would cause a reasonable individual to feel terrorized, frightened, threatened, harassed, or molested and that actually causes the individual to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.” [editor bold]
What if one day an election official decided a poll challenger was standing too close or not close enough? Maybe the poll challenger scowled or was deaf in one ear and failed to reply when spoken to. What if some troublesome citizen expressed concern that there were more counted ballots than voters?
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and these lop-sided bills practically invite election officials to abuse their powers and claim to feel intimidated when a citizen volunteer so much as disagrees with them. No damages, no physical contact, no action need occur, and a volunteer worker could be charged with a Class E felony.
Intended to discourage citizen participation
Current Michigan law makes intimidation a felony, punishable “by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or by a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.”
In contrast, HB 4130’s penalties require a minimum 1 year prison sentence, not to exceed 5 years, plus a maximum fine of $250,000.00--That's a bump in maximum fee of $245,000.
Check out the Michigan’s sentencing guidelines for Class E felonies:
Why this fervor to muzzle free speech in our election locations?
Call to Action:
If you have not yet contacted your representatives, please do so now. Simply modify and send this sample letter or read portions at the hearing tomorrow (click here to download sample letter).
Submit a written statement to the Committee Clerk: Edward Sleeper
Phone: (517) 373-2002, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The clock is ticking.
House Elections Standing Committee Meeting. Chair: Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou, (D), Tuesday, Feb. 28, 10:30 AM, Room 327, House (Anderson) Office Building, Lansing, MI
Michigan Judge Blocks Ban On Open Carry Of Guns At Polls On Election Day, NPR, Oct 28, 2020. PDF attached is from Benson Dated 10/16/2020, Header at top says: Not Currently in Effect under Court Orderb]
HB 4033 (Rep. Paiz)
Elections; special elections; state to reimburse costs for certain special elections; require.
HB 4127 (Rep. Tsernoglou)
Weapons; other; possession of firearms at a polling place; prohibit.
HB 4128 (Rep. Young)
Weapons; other; firearms within 100 feet of an absentee ballot counting board while ballots are being counted; prohibit.
HB 4129 (Rep. Hope)
Elections; offenses; intimidating an election inspector or preventing an election inspector from performing his or her duties; prohibit.
HB 4130 (Rep. Hope)
Criminal procedure; sentencing guidelines; sentencing guidelines for certain Michigan election law violations dealing with intimidating an election official; provide for.