The Supreme Court refused to consider Michigan’s emergency appeal that would eliminate its 125 year-old straight-ticket voting option. The justices gave no reason:
“The application for stay presented to Justice (Elena) Kagan and by her referred to the Court is denied. Justice (Clarence) Thomas and Justice (Samuel) Alito would grant the application.”
In 2015, the state leadership decided to remove the straight ticket option so, “that a voter would not overlook nonpartisan issues on the ballot and also make a ‘more informed vote by examining the credentials and values of each candidate.'”
From NBC 5:
Lawyers for the state defended the law passed and argued in the state’s briefs that “neither the Equal Protection Clause, nor the Voting Rights Act require straight-ticket voting”. They pointed out that Michigan has joined 40 other states “by requiring voters to actually vote for each candidate they intend to support.”
“Requiring voters to actually vote for individual candidates would not be a harm to any voter, let alone an irreparable one,” they argued.
But others disagreed and filed a suit, which the lower courts sided with:
The black labor organization A. Philip Randolph Institute and Common Cause sued, saying the law was meant to discourage minority voters who overwhelmingly choose Democrats.
A district judge and then a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit agreed, saying the elimination of the procedure would slow the voting process and create long lines in precincts where African Americans are most likely to vote. It also held that the ballot, which could be construed to make voters think straight-party voting was still allowed, was confusing.
The courts agreed the law would not likely survive constitutional challenge and might violate the Voting Rights Act and could not be used in the coming election.
Attorney Mark Brewer celebrated the decision:
“This is a victory for Michigan voters. It would have been chaos eight weeks from now at the polls if straight-party voting was eliminated,” Brewer said Friday.
Brewer contends long lines at the polls would violate the rights of disabled voters as well as African-American voters, who historically have a higher rate of voting straight party.
“For whatever reason, and there may be historic reasons, African Americans use the option more,” he said. “And the case law is very clear if you take away the voting rights of a minority, the Voting Rights Act is violated.”
One survey found that 30% of Democrats use the straight ticket voting option compared to 20% of their Republicans counterparts.DONATE
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