89.1 WEMU

Judge Blocks Michigan's Ban On Straight-Party Voting

Jul 22, 2016

Voting Booths
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

Voters in Michigan will be allowed to use the straight-ticket voting option on the November ballot. 


A federal judge has ruled a ban adopted by the Legislature and signed by Governor Rick Snyder violates the voting rights of African-Americans in large cities.  From the opinion and the injunction order by Detroit US District Court Judge Gershwin Drain:

“There is no dispute that straight-party voting helps to save time in the voting process. Several elections officials in Oakland County, Detroit, and Lansing have filed affidavits asserting that the elimination of straight-party voting will increase line lengths and waiting times for voters.…They claim they are most concerned with wait times in urban settings, predominantly populated by African-American voters.”

Mary Ellen Gurewitz is an attorney who argued against the ban. She says the data show African-American voters are the most likely to use the straight-ticket option.

“The elimination of straight-party voting will have a more negative effect for African-American voters than for voters generally, although it will impact voters all around the state.”

A study presented in court showed the straight-ticket option was used on 70% of the ballots cast in Detroit and Flint in recent elections.  The cities typically have high Democratic voter turnout.

Gurewitz says straight ticket voting means it will take less time to vote and shorten lines on Election Day.  “Two and a half million voters in the November elections will find that they can continue to vote in the efficient way that they have done in the past,” she said.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says an appeal will be filed early next week.  State House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) says he supports an appeal:

“I strongly disagree with this bizarre ruling, because Michigan voters want to vote for people, not parties.  Unfortunately, our outdated ballots reflect the corrupt era of party bosses that hasn’t existed for one hundred years.  It is well beyond time we modernize voting in Michigan to reflect democratic ideals, not partisan power.” 

The controversy must be settled in time for absentee ballots to be printed and mailed out by the legal deadline of September 24th. 

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— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org