Judge urged to stop state ban on straight-party voting

By Ed White

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan's new ban on straight-party voting will affect turnout in the fall election, especially among minorities who will be turned off by standing in long lines and combing through a long ballot, an attorney said last Thursday as she urged a judge to stop a law that was passed by Republicans.

"This is an election of great consequence. ... Disruption would be very damaging," Mary Ellen Gurewitz said.

Gurewitz and co-counsel Mark Brewer, the former head of the state Democratic Party, represent three people and a union-affiliated group in a lawsuit that claims the ban on straight-party voting violates the rights of minorities and the disabled. Voters no longer can choose candidates of one political party with a single mark, bringing Michigan in line with 40 other states.

U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain said he will decide this week whether to issue an injunction.

Lawyers said roughly half of the ballots in recent statewide elections have been cast with a single mark. An end to straight-party voting could have a big impact in cities that are friendly to Democrats and have large black populations, especially Detroit. In Detroit and Flint, more than 70 percent of ballots have been straight-ticket.

"Voters will be angry, confused," Brewer told the judge.

But Assistant Attorney General Erik Grill said everyone in Michigan will be treated equally. He noted that Ottawa County, which is 92 percent white and reliably Republican, had a slightly higher rate of straight-party voting than Wayne County, which includes Detroit. No one from Ottawa County is suing over the law.

Grill said people still can vote for candidates from one party - just not with one mark. He said there are no court decisions anywhere in the U.S. that say a ban on straight-party voting violates the rights of voters.

Published: Mon, Jul 18, 2016