89.1 WEMU

No Word Yet From Appeals Court On Straight-Ballot Voting

Sep 1, 2016

Straight-ticket voting form
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

State Republican leaders were hoping to hear yesterday whether a federal appeals court would review Michigan’s ban on straight-ticket voting

State Republican leaders are still waiting to see if a federal appeals court will restore Michigan’s ban on straight-ticket voting.  Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette had asked for a decision from the entire court by Wednesday.  With no word, state elections officials are making preparations to finalize the ballot by the end of next week. 

Certainly, it’s up to the judges to decide when they want to issue a ruling, and we respect that, and we’ll comply with whatever they order when they do that,” says Fred Woodhams, spokesman for the Michigan Bureau of Elections.  “But we’re looking to have the ballot certified and finalized by September 9th.”

That would leave two weeks for local clerks to print and get ballots in the mail to military personnel and other overseas voters by the September 24 deadline set in state and federal law.  But there’s nothing that requires federal courts to respect those deadlines.  Woodhams says if a court rules after the deadline, the state will figure out how to deal with it. 

Schuette, a Republican, was hoping for a ruling by Wednesday to leave time to file an emergency appeal with the US Supreme Court before ballots must be printed. 

Schuette is seeking an “en banc” review of earlier court decisions by all 16 judges on the Sixth Circuit US Court of Appeals.  That’s after a three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld a lower court decision that the ban on straight-ticket voting violated the rights of minority voters in cities where long lines can be a problem on Election Day. 

With no word from the appeals court, Michigan’s ban on straight-ticket voting remains unenforceable.  Straight-ticket voting allows someone to support a political party’s entire slate of candidates with one mark on the ballot.  

Republicans in the Legislature muscled through the law late last year and Governor Rick Snyder, also a Republican, signed it in January.  They also made it impossible for voters to overturn it via a referendum by putting a spending provision in it.  

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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