In one of the strangest cases of election related court challenges to come along in some time, Republicans in Michigan attempted to remove the option of straight ticket voting. A law had been put in place, supported by Republicans and backed by Governor Rick Snyder, which would forbid the practice of allowing voters to use one mark to vote for all candidates up for election along the party line. Upon being challenged, the law was struck down. The GOP Attorney General filed no less than two emergency motions to have it reinstated before the election, but as Josh Gerstein at Politico reports, on appeal the court has decided to let the ruling stand. (Emphasis added)
Procedures allowing Michigan voters to easily cast straight-ticket ballots look likely to remain in place for this fall’s election after a federal appeals court refused to restore a law that would have ended the practice.
A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion Wednesday declining the state’s request to overturn a judge’s order finding that the straight-ticket voting option was heavily relied on by African-Americans and that the state’s attempt to ban it appears to violate both the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
“The district court credited unrebutted evidence in the record demonstrating that [the ban] will increase the time that it takes to vote, particularly in African-American communities where straight-party voting is prominent and where lines are often already long. The district court also found that the law was likely to increase voter confusion and miscast ballots,” Judge Karen Moore wrote, in an opinion joined by Judges Jane Stranch and Ronald Gilman.
I was skeptical to say the least when the law was first proposed, but for entirely different reasons I’m completely flabbergasted at the grounds cited for challenging it and the court’s rationale for upholding the decision to strike it down.
First of all, as to the original law, on what possible, rational grounds would you seek to remove the option of a straight ticket vote? People are still free to check whichever box they like and split the ticket, but it’s more convenient if you’re a true party disciple to simply take the entire line. You’re still casting a vote for each race. Who in the Sam Hill cares if you do it with one swipe or a dozen individual marks? This was a pointless law right out of the gate.
But on a completely different level of outrage, what the heck was the court thinking when this decision was crafted? There’s no ambiguity here… they are flat out saying that black voters specifically need this option more than white voters. And if you go back to the emphasized sections of the quotes above, their reasons are clear. If you don’t let the black voters use a straight line ballot you would increase confusion and it could result in miscast ballots.
What’s that supposed to mean? You’re saying that black voters aren’t smart enough to figure out who they want to support in each particular race and will become bewildered and mess up the ballot if they are forced to select each candidate? I suppose one could *almost* concede that it takes slightly longer to check each box rather than only needing to mark one for the desired party so lines could be longer, but how is that a “black problem” in Michigan? Are white people magically faster at marking ballots? Or are you simply implying that they are smarter?
Democrats, Republicans, Greens and Libertarians should be free to vote the party line or split the ticket as they wish. And if you can save a few seconds doing the party line vote, why not? But argue the case that way in court instead of implying that the poor black voters won’t be able to figure out the ballot on their own. Holy horse hockey, Batman. This is insanity.