Michiganders Clamor to Revive Voting Aid

     DETROIT (CN) — Michigan’s elimination of straight-party voting, a 125-year-old tradition where one mark indicates support of all party candidates, has unnecessarily complicated Election Day, voters claim in a federal complaint.
     “This elimination will result in longer lines, more congestion and more confusion in polling places on Election Day as well as confusion among absentee voters, further unreasonably burdening the right to vote of all voters in Michigan, and will consequently disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters,” the complaint states.
     Michigan chapter of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute filed the lawsuit Monday with three voters, one of whom is 77 years old and another who teaches social work at Oakland University.
     They say Michigan is already notorious for its problems at the polls, hampered by city-specific issues, such as Detroit’s recent bankruptcy and the ongoing financial distress of communities like Flint and Pontiac.
     At nearly 20 minutes, Michigan already has the sixth longest average waiting time to vote in the country, according to the complaint.
     “Minority voters wait twice as long on average as white voters to vote, and voters in densely populated areas wait, on average, 3 times longer to vote than voters in less densely populated areas,” the complaint continues.
     The institute says things are worse in an election year, with voters waiting up to five hours in Detroit for a chance to fill out lengthy ballots. The ballot this year in Detroit has 37 offices open, the complaint states.
     This year, however, Michiganders have lost one help available to them since 1892.
     Straight-ticket voting allows a voter to make one mark at the top of a ballot to indicate support for all candidates of a political party. It’s not a mandatory, but it’s popular.
     The complaint says 50 percent of all Michigan voters use it, and 75 percent to 80 percent of all black voters use it.
     Legislators have had it out for straight-ticket voting for years, according to the complaint, and Gov. Rick Snyder finally got his way this past January when he signed into law Public Act 268.
     The institute says lawmakers went against the will of voters in adopting the measure, and against testimony from city and county clerks that it could double the average wait time of 22 minutes to vote.
     With PA 268 scheduled to take affect this November in time for the presidential election, the institute says voters need an injunction.
     It predicts thousands will be disenfranchised.
     “Lines and waiting times will increase even more in jurisdictions with larger minority populations, as minority voters have used the straight-party voting option at a much higher rate,” the complaint states.
     Black and disabled voters will pay the price, according to the complaint, which alleges discrimination and trampling of the Voting Rights Act and of equal-protection rights, in violation of the 14th Amendment.
     Mark Brewer, of the Southfield firm Goodman Acker, filed the complaint for the institute. He is joined as counsel by Mary Ellen Gurewitz of Sachs Waldman.
     A spokesman for Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson cited a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.
     “I can say that Michigan was one of only 10 states that offered a straight part ticket,” the secretery’s spokesman Fred Woodhams added. “Now there’s only nine states that do so.”
     Those states that still allow straight-ticket voting are Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

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