DETROIT (WXYZ) — Sunday night at the TCF Center in Detroit, the 66th NAACP Fight For Freedom Dinner was back in person after a year hiatus due to COVID-19. While the crowd was much smaller this year due to the virus, about 1,000 people came out to hear a list of speakers and watch Governor Gretchen Whitmer veto recent legislation on voting.
"I've done a lot of ceremonies when I sign bills," Whitmer said. "Tonight, I’m going to sign the veto letter.”
Surrounded by the Secretary of State, Lieutenant Governor and NAACP leadership, Whitmer vetoed four election bills passed on Thursday by the Michigan legislature.
“It is shameful," said Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, President of the NAACP Detroit Branch. "This is no more than political rascality.”
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,” Anthony told the crowd. “We are under attack. Freedom is under attack. Democracy is under attack. Our right to vote is being challenged.”
The vetoed bills would’ve made it illegal to connect voting machines to the internet, limit access to state voter files and expand eligible polling stations. The bills mainly passed with bipartisan support.
"We must continue to put good forth policy," said republican Representative 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 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.”