Late last night, the Michigan Legislature narrowly passed Senate Bill 13, which would eliminate straight-ticket voting. I voted in opposition to the bill, as I believe it will be detrimental to the election process in our state. This bill is a solution in search of a problem. It’s no secret that Democratic voters are statistically more likely to vote a straight ticket. Densely populated areas, which lean Democratic, have longer lines and wait times at the polls, and these areas would be hit hardest by this proposal. Further, about half of Michigan voters, of all political affiliations, vote a straight ticket. With these facts in mind, this legislation can be viewed as an effort to suppress voters.
Additionally, this legislation is referendum-proof due to the addition of a $5 million appropriation. This means that the public will not be able to reverse this policy at the polls, as it did both times the Legislature previously passed a straight-ticket voting ban. If this bill is good policy, then why does the majority party need to protect itself from the voters overturning said policy?
Even more frightening is that this policy would become law just in time for the November 2016 election. House Democrats, including myself, adamantly fought against the passage of this bill. This led to SB 13 being tie-barred to House Bill 4724, which would allow residents to request an absentee ballot by visiting their local clerk’s office each time, in person, while presenting identification. I support reforms that encourage voting and make it more accessible, rather than proposals like this that make voting more difficult. This proposal to eliminate straight-ticket voting sits alongside gerrymandering and election restrictions as tools to engineer election victories.