91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Snyder and GOP go from 'In a relationship' to 'It's complicated'

Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration
Governor Snyder surprised many political watchers this week by vetoing three Republican-sponsored elections reforms bills.

This week on It's Just Politics: It's all about relationships. Specifically, the relationship between Gov. Rick Snyder and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature. And, the status on this one just went from “in a relationship” to “it’s complicated.”

A Gubernatorial Veto

The Governor vetoed three bills this week – they were part of a Republican elections package, most of which he signed. The three vetoed bills would have required people applying to vote for the first time or for absentee ballots to check a box affirming they are U.S. citizens. Another would have required photo ID for an absentee ballot. And, the third would have required state training for people who want to register voters. The Governor said the bills that he vetoed were too confusing and might discourage people from voting when the should should be making it easy to vote.

Lansing Democrats, Republicans Shocked

By vetoing these bills, Snyder not only broke with legislative Republicans, but also with established Republican Party opinion on how elections should be conducted. It's a classic divide between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives versus liberals, and it reflects how each side thinks the other party games the system to pirate elections. Republicans are concerned with ballot security - making sure only people who are supposed to vote actually cast a ballot. Democrats are more concerned about ballot access - that as many people as possible are allowed to vote.

Breaking Up is Hard To Do

These recent vetoes have many political-watchers wondering: What does this mean for the relationship between Gov. Snyder and Republicans? Is the Governor standing on principle, or showing there is a price to be paid for blocking his plans for an international bridge, road funding, opposing him on immigration and health care. The joke around town used to be that when Governor Snyder said something was, "not on my agenda” that really meant: "I’ll sign it if you send it to me.” Not so much any more.

Democrats Applaud Snyder

Shortly after the Governor's office announced his vetoes, Democrats began sending out press releases commending the Governor. Democrats, progressives, union leaders all praised Snyder for standing up to his own party. Though it's no doubt that the Governor will likely begin to try and find ways to repair his relationship with fellow Republicans, these vetoes might be a signal that he is ready to build alliances with Democrats... if it gets him some of what he wants legislatively. And, of course, though the state House and Senate are both currently controlled by the GOP, all 110 seats in the state House are up for grabs in November's election.

2014: Looking Ahead to Re-Election

In previous It's Just Politics, we've taken a look at the political positioning that high-level Republicans undertake in the state. These latest vetoes have some politicos wondering: is the likelihood that Gov. Snyder could be challenged by a more-conservative member of the GOP in the 2014 Gubernatorial primary increasing? We've heard murmuring, especially from Tea Partiers, that they might start looking for someone more ideologically consistent, someone who keeps positioning himself to the right of Gov. Snyder, someone like Republican state Attorney General Bill Schuette (one of the Attorney Generals to challenge President Obama's Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court).

In the short-term, state lawmakers are on their summer recess but it's no doubt that when they return to the state Capitol, for the beginning of their next session, that these vetoes will be front and center on everyone's minds and quite possibly will influence future legislation.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
Related Content