Straight-ticket voting won’t be available as an option in the Nov. 6 general election, under a federal appeals court ruling released late Wednesday. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision marked by a sharply worded dissent, blocked a ruling by a federal judge in Detroit that would have struck down a 2016 law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature to ban straight-ticket voting in Michigan. There was no immediate word on a further appeal of the ruling, but there is little time before the Michigan ballot is finalized. U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain declared the law unconstitutional in August, following a bench trial. Drain said the ban on straight-ticket voting “presents a disproportionate burden on African Americans’ right to vote,” partly because, in Michigan’s most populous counties, there is a strong correlation between the size of the black voting population and the use of straight-ticket voting.
Many local clerks said a ban on straight-ticket voting could result in lengthy delays to vote in cities such as Detroit and Flint.
But Secretary of State Ruth Johnson appealed the ruling, and late Wednesday the 6th Circuit granted the state official’s motion to stay the ruling, meaning it is without effect. The appeal continues, but the 6th Circuit, in putting a hold on Drain’s ruling, said that Johnson is likely to prevail.