US appeals court asked to decide on straight-ticket voting

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LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has asked a federal appeals court to look at a state law eliminating straight-party voting that has been in legal limbo for months.

The Republican-led Michigan Legislature passed the bill getting rid of straight-party voting late last year and the governor signed in into law in January. Democrats cried foul and took the issue to court. Two courts have weighed in and for now, the ban has been stopped from going into effect.

Schuette has asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an “expedited review” of the legislation to settle the matter.

“I think we’ll hear soon,” he added.

Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon said soon may not be soon enough.

“We’ll know very soon, but we feel it’s important for clerks to have certainty within the next few days to make sure that the ballots get ready and designed and sent out to folks who are voting absentee,” he said.

Straight-party voting, which has been allowed in Michigan for more than a century, allows citizens to make one mark to choose their party’s candidate down the ticket. Republicans say doing away with it will make voters better informed because they will have to examine every race.

Dillon said he believes the policy is an attempt by Republicans to eliminate a way of voting that they believe benefits Democratic candidates.

“I mean, it’s very clear,” he said.

Democrats say eliminating straight-party ticket voting will create long lines and deter voters, particularly in urban areas.

Ronna Romney McDaniel, who chairs the Michigan Republican Party, said getting rid of straight-party voting isn’t about hurting Democrats. Members of both parties, she said, cast straight-party tickets.

“Ottawa County, Kent County, they vote straight-party ticket Republican, primarily,” she said. “If you look at the states that employ the elimination of straight-party ticket or don’t vote by straight-party ticket, they’re Democrat states, they’re Republican states. This is simply just good policy.”

Regardless of whether it’s a good policy, its fate is now in the hands of the courts.–The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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