House Candidates Tackle Education, Voter ID Laws at Candidate Forum in Canton
Kurt Heise, Tim Roraback and Dian Slavens face League of Women Voters at Canton Public Library.
Candidates for the 20th and 21st districts of the Michigan House of Representatives tackled education and jobs Monday during a candidate forum in front of about 80 attendees at the Canton Public Library.
In the 20th District race, Rep. Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth) and challenger Tim Roraback (D-Plymouth) attended the forum, moderated by Paula Bowman from the League of Women Voters of Northwest Wayne County. From the 21st District race, Rep. Dian Slavens (D-Canton) appeared, but her opponent, Joe Barnabei (R-Van Buren Township), did not attend.
The 20th District covers Northville, Plymouth and the eastern portion of Canton. The 21st District includes most of Canton, Belleville and Van Buren Township.
Candidates weigh in on charter, cyber schools
Roraback said the increased presence of charter schools within the Plymouth-Canton school district boundaries is "draining public school funding" by pulling local students from the public school system.
"We're not served by the mad rush to create entirely new, unproven systems of schools," Roraback said.
Slavens said she opposed both measures when they went through the House, and was particularly troubled by the rise of cyber schools, online-only educational institutions, which she said lacked the controls of a traditional classroom setting.
"A child can take class online, take a test, there's no monitoring whether that child is taking the test or someone is taking the test for the child," she said.
"I, for one, as a parent, it's not for me," he said of the schools.
Still, Heise defended his support of lifting the cap for these schools, arguing it offers additional options for local parents.
Democrats oppose voter ID laws
On the potential of implementing divisive voter ID laws in Michigan to deter voter fraud, Heise pledged his support, but said he would make obtaining proper identification more accessible for voters.
Currently, a photo ID is requested of voters at polls in Michigan, but it is not yet a requirement. Elsewhere, however, states are adopting legislation that mandates voters show government-issued photo identification.
"A photo ID should be required," Heise said. "If you don't have one, one should be provided at taxpayers' expense."
Roraback said he felt such laws were unnecessary and punish elderly and impoverished voters who might not carry proper identification.
"(Voters are) more likely to be hit by lightning than participate in voter fraud," Roraback said. "Up to 3 million Americans are being disenfranchised by required photo IDs at polls, people who are the most vulnerable in society and need to have their voices heard as much as everybody else."
Heise said such measures would avoid duplicate voting and ensure voters are at the proper polling locations.
Slavens also said she opposed voter ID laws.
Candidates pledge bipartisanship
All three candidates pledged to reach across the aisle and embrace bipartisanship.
Heise said members of the House of Representatives agree more often than the public might think.
"There are multiple, countless numbers of unanimous votes on bills," Heise said. "You only read about those with the sharpest disagreement. We get along more than what you read about."
Slavens, who is running for her third term, said she saw plenty of compromise made during her first term, but said the recent session was "disconcerting" and said she would like to see more compromise in the future.
Roraback said he would try to reach out to Republicans if elected.
"I can only say if I'm elected, I will do my absolute best to work with the other side and find common ground."
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly swapped the 20th and 21st districts of the House of Representatives. The updated story correctly reflects the districts.