An amended version of the bill to eliminate the straight-ticket voting box on Michigan ballots moved out of the House Elections Committee Tuesday with only Republican support. Senate Bill 13 would eliminate the box on current ballots that allows people to automatically vote a straight Republican or Democratic ticket, though voters could still go through and vote individually for all members of one party. Sponsor Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, said last week that 40 states had eliminated this option. Michigan is one step closer to joining those states after the House Elections Committee adopted a substitute version of the bill that increased the appropriation that would go to clerks for voting equipment by $5 million and tie-barred the bill to House Bill 4724, a bill that would allow people to vote absentee with no reason by getting a ballot in person at their local clerk’s office.
Currently Michiganders must meet one of six conditions, such as being over age 60 or planning to be out of town on election day, to vote absentee. But the appropriations piece is opposed by Democrats because under a court ruling and the constitution it would make the bill referendum-proof.
“The reason why the sponsor put the appropriation in here was to try to prevent this from being referred to the people,” said committee member Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor.
But House Elections Committee Chair Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, said the money would go toward local clerks purchasing equipment and being able to implement the change. “I believe that eliminating straight ticket is a very very big change. There’s no doubt about that. But in doing so we need to provide the resources to be able to implement those at the local level, so that’s why I felt it was prudent to add an increased appropriations to it,” Lyons said.