House Dems Denounce Removal of Straight-Ticket Voting Option

Legislation will lead to long lines at polling places
Wednesday, December 9, 2015

LANSING — The House Democratic Caucus voted today against a bill that would ban the straight-ticket voting option in Michigan. Senate Bill 13, which was voted out of committee and passed in the Senate on the same day last month, has been particularly controversial, as a version of the bill was twice passed in Michigan, and both times been repealed through voter referendum. In order to prevent the same check from being applicable to this bill, House Republicans attached an appropriation totaling $5 million to the bill, making it referendum-proof.

“Michigan Republicans are launching a two-pronged attack on voting rights. First, they eliminate the option of straight-ticket voting, lengthening the process and adding to long lines in urban areas. Then they use constitutional trickery to prevent voters from having a say,” said state Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), a member of the House Elections and Ethics Committee. “They claim that they want a more informed electorate, but by including an appropriation, they show that they don’t want that electorate deciding that this bill is bad policy, as they’ve done twice before. It’s completely disrespectful and hypocritical.”

The straight-ticket ban would prevent voters from checking the single box at the top of the ballot in order to vote for all Democratic or Republican candidates. While Republicans claim the bill aims to “… give people an opportunity to look at and study candidates and issues,” the clerks and township representatives who spoke in committee last week pointed out that the only measurable impact the ban would have on voters would be longer wait times and greater confusion. Despite House Democrats proposing more than twenty amendments to the bill, including one to allow no-reason absentee voting, every single one was defeated in a party-line vote. Two particular amendments, which would allow seniors and those with disabilities to skip the long lines inevitably created by the ban, were deemed “not germane” by committee Chairwoman Rep. Lisa Lyons (R-Alto) and never received a vote.

“The long lines that SB 13 creates will hit voters in dense urban districts the hardest,” said state Rep. LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit.) “This is a thinly veiled attempt by Lansing Republicans to discourage certain voters from exercising their franchise that will create a mass amount of confusion at the polls. The right to vote is one of the core freedoms in our democracy, and we should never make it harder for people to use that right.”

“We’ve seen no action on legislation to create an independent redistricting commission and other bills that would improve our democracy, but House Republicans are trying to make voting harder, and a bill to allow even more corporate money into campaigns is on the fast track in the Senate,” said state Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), also a member of the committee. “Republicans are once again rigging the system in their favor to maintain their stranglehold on state government. The lack of trust in the voters these bills display should be insulting to all voters, regardless of their party.”