Judge Allows Straight-Party Voting in Michigan

DETROIT (CN) – A federal judge has denied Michigan’s emergency motion to prevent voters from casting straight-ticket ballots that allow them to choose all of one party’s candidates on a single bubble.

On Aug. 1, the Detroit federal court issued a permanent injunction against the state’s ban on straight-ticket, also called straight-party, voting, finding that Michigan Republicans had introduced the ban to discriminate against African-American voters and discourage them from going to the polls.

U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain said the evidence showed that African-Americans were more likely to vote Democrat and cast straight-party ballots at higher rates.

Michigan voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election but went blue in the two elections before, when President Barack Obama prevailed. The state is considered a battleground in this year’s midterm elections.

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is appealing the Aug. 1 ruling and asked the court to stay its permanent injunction against the ban.

In a motion for an emergency stay, Johnson said there is no proof that long lines and wait times specifically burdened black voters.

Judge Drain disagreed Thursday, noting that the court had already concluded that because African-Americans vote using straight-ticket ballots at higher rates, the ban would “disparately” affect them.

Lower rates of literacy among African-Americans sometimes make it difficult for voters to read through Michigan’s “extremely long ballots,” and research shows that straight-party voting saves at least three minutes at the polls, according to the 23-page opinion.

In 2012, Michigan still had the sixth-longest wait times at the polls and the ban “will only aggravate these troubling voting conditions,” Drain wrote, adding that voters would suffer “irreparable injury” if forced to wait in long lines.

“These effects would deter a substantial number of people from voting by discouraging them from attending the polls or having them arrive at a polling station only to leave because of long lines and wait times. And African-Americans would disproportionately bear all of these consequences,” the ruling states.

Michigan voters have been using straight ticket voting since 1891, and curtailing the practice this close to an election would “engender a significant change in Michigan residents’ exercise of their voting rights,” Drain added.

%d bloggers like this: