A federal judge will likely decide whether Michigan voters will have to check off whether they are U.S. citizens when they go to the polls in November. A coalition of voting rights groups filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Detroit challenging Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s decision to require U.S. citizenship checkboxes on applications to vote, saying the boxes are unconstitutional and violate federal and state law. Mary Ellen Gurewitz, attorney for the plaintiffs, said the group will head to court within a day or two to request a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. “This is a matter that has to be addressed quickly because the forms are being ordered and printed and money is being spent,” she said.
The lawsuit is the latest round in the debate over the checkboxes. Proponents say they are one more safeguard to ensure only citizens vote, while opponents argue it is a veiled effort by Republicans to suppress likely Democratic voters. The move in Michigan is part of a larger national push by Republicans to require voters to prove their citizenship.
Among the plaintiffs in the Michigan lawsuit are the American Civil Liberties Union and several citizens, including a Macomb County man who was turned away from the polls in August when he didn’t answer the citizenship question. The lawsuit charges Johnson exceeded her authority by mandating use of the citizen checkboxes on ballot applications, even after a law requiring their use was vetoed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.