Michigan voters would lose the ability to cast a straight-ticket ballot for candidates of a single political party under fast-tracked legislation approved Tuesday evening in the state Senate. The Republican-backed bill advanced through committee earlier the same day before reaching the floor, where it was amended to include a $1 million appropriation that would make it immune to referendum. Michigan voters overturned a similar law in 2002 after Democrats forced a ballot referendum via petition drive. The new bill would provide funding to the Michigan Secretary of State to assess the impact of eliminating straight-ticket voting, assist in ongoing fraud prevention and “provide equipment to facilitate the integrity of the election process,” among other things. Sen. Dave Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, called the appropriation “entirely legitimate,” but critics pointed out that most state spending decisions are made during the budget process, not within policy bills.
“Let’s not lie to each other, and let’s not lie to voters of this state. This appropriation is a $1 million insurance policy against the will of the people,” said Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-Meridian Township.
As for the policy itself, supporters say Senate Bill 13 would reduce partisanship in the elections process and encourage voters to conduct more research before heading to the polls. But critics say it could decrease convenience and lead to longer lines on Election Day.
All sides seem to agree the change would have the largest effect in down-ticket elections on the partisan section of the ballot, such as university regent or school board races, which tend to feature lesser-known candidates.