GOP needs to stop war on straight-ticket voting

Gov. Rick Snyder signs bill eliminating straight-ticket voting in Michigan

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed a bill eliminating straight-ticket voting in Michigan.

Snyder said it would help modernize Michigan’s election process — we are one of only 10 states that still has straight-ticket voting. The governor also said it would help squeeze partisanship out of the equation and encourage voters to focus on the candidates.

“It’s time to choose people over politics,” Snyder said when he signed the bill.

But critics say eliminating straight-ticket voting is motivated by nothing more than politics. Democrats, especially African-Americans, are much more likely to use the option, according to a lawsuit filed last May by a black labor organization, the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

“This is a way to help more Republicans get elected as opposed to Democrats,” said Barb Byrum, Ingham County clerk and former Democratic state representative. “This is party politics. There’s no place for this in elections.”

As a Democrat and clerk who has to run an election this fall, Byrum is opposed to it both philosophically and practically.

“This is increasing voter confusion,” she said. “It’s going to increase lines. It’s going to increase wait times. This is … a horrible, horrible initiative.”

Longer lines and wait times are just a few claims the federal lawsuit spells out. The point U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain cited in his decision to grant an injunction – meaning straight-ticket voting would be allowed in November — is that eliminating the option is discriminatory to African-American voters.

Attorney General Bill Schuette was quick to file motions to keep straight-ticket voting off the ballot. On Monday, Drain declined to lift his injunction and allow the new law to take effect. The case now sits in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals with a decision likely to come down this week.

Ruth Johnson’s Secretary of State Office didn’t want to comment on the case Tuesday because the outcome is still pending. Instead, the office sent me a 112-page copy of the motion that would effectively eliminate straight-ticket voting from this election and allow the courts to decide the matter afterward.

The motion attacks all the claims made in the lawsuit, including the one that says it discriminates against African Americans.

“Contrary to the district court’s erroneous legal ruling, the fact that one race disproportionately votes in a particular way obviously does not mean that a law affecting that preference violates (the Voting Rights Act),” the motion says. “At the threshold, (the Equal Protection Clause of the VRA) does not prohibit an ordinary, race-neutral voting statute merely because it results in a statistical disparity.”

There’s a lot of other legal speak for why the law should be implemented while the lawsuit is pending. But common sense tells us otherwise. Was there really good reason to abandoned a 100-plus year old voting practice in the first place?

All partisanship aside, I’m not feeling it.


Schuette files court motion to stop straight-ticket voting in November

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed two emergency motions on Wednesday requesting injunctions against a recent federal court ruling that would allow straight-ticket voting in the November election.

The GOP needs to stop this senseless crusade. It’s an obvious political ploy to benefit its battered party at the polls. All a straight-ticket does is offer a simpler choice for people weighed down by choices in the ballot booth. Looked at through a non-partisan lens, the benefits far outweigh any detriments.

I understand the desire to make people think harder about their choices, but the last thing voters need this election is more confusion and hardships.

We already have our fair share of hardship just listening to the candidates.

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