A fight over the Michigan Republican-led Legislature’s attempted ban on straight-ticket voting can head to trial this spring, a federal judge ruled Friday, rejecting Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s request for dismissal. In a 42-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain denied Johnson’s request to toss a lawsuit alleging a 2015 law to eliminate straight-ticket voting would diminish the voice of African American voters.
The Utah State Legislature will be deciding whether to eliminate “straight-ticket” voting, where you can choose to only vote for candidates from one political party on an entire ballot. Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, is sponsoring a bill that would end that, calling it “outdated.” “They can still go through the ballot and vote for every Republican, every Green Party and every Democrat,” she told FOX 13. “But they’re going to have to look at every single name to do that.” Rep. Arent claims straight-ticket voting causes confusion for voters and some key issues get skipped because they’re not tied to a party affiliation.
Editorials: Michigan should do away with the straight-ticket option | Peter Lucido/Detroit Free Press
Of all the things that make our country great, nothing is more universally cherished than our right to vote. Americans choose their own destiny, and they exercise that choice through the democratic process. We are born and raised into thinking of our system as generally idyllic, or close to it. Considering how far we’ve come, it’s no surprise that many people are resistant to change or hesitant to move in any direction out of fear that we are undermining a fundamental element of our American rights. However, who can vote and how are factors that have undergone both societal and constitutional change over the course of our nation’s history. A brief look at our past will confirm that the willingness to revisit or redefine our voting process is generally for the better, when the goal is a more representative democracy. Michigan is one of only 10 states that still uses straight-ticket voting. Why should we settle for less?
Michigan: Senate GOP plans to pass straight-ticket voting ban, ditch absentee voting bill | MLive.com
Michigan will ban straight-ticket voting without expanding absentee ballot options — if Senate Republicans have their way. Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, said the upper chamber will move Wednesday to separate elections bills linked and approved last week by the House. Senate Bill 13 would eliminate the option for voters to choose all candidates of a single political party by marking a check box on their ballot. The proposal, which could help Republicans win down-ticket education seats they’ve struggled to secure in recent years, has faced pushback from local clerks who believe that eliminating the faster voting option will lead to longer lines on Election Day.
Michigan: Detroit city clerk, voting rights advocates come out against “unnecessary” elections bills | Michigan Radio
Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey and voting rights advocates are denouncing a pair of election bills in the Michigan Legislature right now. One is a state Senate bill that would restrict absentee voting hours, and ban absentee voting at satellite office locations. Winfrey says Detroit is one of just a few Michigan cities to use satellite voting, and it’s been “very successful” there. “So when you begin to impede that process, when you want to eliminate that process, now you’re affecting a particular group of people,” she said. Winfrey also criticized a bill to eliminate single-party, straight-ticket voting, saying that will make for longer lines and more confusion, disproportionately affecting urban voters.
Michigan’s Republican-led House moved late Wednesday to approve bills that would eliminate straight-ticket voting and allow no-reason absentee voting after an in-person ballot request. The straight-ticket ban, modified and advanced in a 54-51 vote at around 10 p.m., faced criticism from Democrats, who called it a political proposal that would have the practical effect of creating longer voting lines. “The reason we’re doing this is because Republicans have not been able to win education board seats,” said Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing. “…So they decided to change the rules.”
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.
Clerks, advocates for seniors and the disabled, and regular citizens heaped criticism Thursday on a Republican proposal to end straight-party voting in Michigan. The House Elections Committee took about an hour 90 minutes of testimony, but adjourned Thursday evening without voting on Senate Bill 13. State Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, the committee chairwoman, said the committee would continue to take a look at the bills and hopes to move the straight ticket bill along with one that would approve no reason absentee voting. The committee heard testimony Thursday that was overwhelmingly opposed to the change as one that would cause longer lines to vote and that would especially disadvantage black voters. Only East Lansing election lawyer Eric Doster testified in support of the bill, saying it would be beneficial for democracy.
The House is poised to take up legislation that will make it easier to vote by absentee ballot, but eliminate straight-party ticket voting at the same time. Republicans in the Senate have already passed the elimination of straight-ticket voting, which Democrats believe is a partisan ploy to skew elections toward the GOP. The House Elections Committee will take up the legislation today after it voted Wednesday to pass a bill that would allow people to get an absentee ballot without providing a reason for needing to vote on a day other than Election Day. State Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, said she’d like to see the two bills passed together to ensure smooth and efficient elections.
Michigan voters who with a single mark can vote Democratic or Republican for every partisan office on the ballot may no longer have the option in 2016. Republicans who control the Legislature want to make Michigan the latest state to eliminate straight-ticket, or straight-party, voting. It is still used in 10 states but has been abolished by nine others in the last 20 years, including nearby Wisconsin and Illinois. To its detractors, straight-party voting encourages ill-prepared voters to pick officeholders solely on party affiliation, not their qualifications, and is a relic of party machine politics. Proponents say it is a convenient, popular option whose removal would lengthen lines, particularly in urban polling precincts, in a state with the country’s sixth-longest average wait time. The GOP-controlled Senate this month approved legislation to end the straight-ticket option, and majority House Republicans may follow in December before adjourning for the year.
Residents in the state of Michigan may not have the option of voting a straight-ticket after the Michigan Senate passed legislation eliminating that option this past week. Added to the legislation was an $1 million appropriation introduced by Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland. Due to state law, the appropriation would prevent the legislation from being repealed by citizens. The Republican-controlled Senate fast-tracked the bill that went from committee to a vote all on Tuesday. The 23-13 vote saw all 11 Democratic senators vote, “nay,” on Senate Bill 13, along with two Republican senators, Joe Hune, Hamburg, and Tory Rocca, Sterling Heights. “We want voters to pick individuals and not a party,” Stamas said.
Michigan: Straight-ticket voting ban speeds through Michigan Senate with shield against repeal | MLive.com
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.
Legislation that would remove Texas judges from the straight-ticket voting process garnered a mostly cool reception Tuesday at a Texas House committee hearing, as both Democrats and Republicans said that tinkering with the ballot turns off voters. House Bill 25, authored by state Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, would only impact partisan elections in judicial races. Sheets, an attorney, told his fellow House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee members that good judges are being unfairly ousted when a Republican or Democratic wave occurs during a general election. “We’re not eliminating straight-ticketing voting,” Sheets said Tuesday. “We’re just making it so voters would have to manually select, and the thought process is that more people would select the judicial candidate [based] on the individual.”
Texas is one of only 10 states still doing straight-ticket voting but a North Texas legislator is hoping to change that. At a hearing today, Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) told the Elections Committee that doing away with such an option here would lead to a more informed voter and improve turnout in non-partisan ballot measure. “The purpose of this bill is to increase the number of Republican elected officials thought out the state of Texas,” he halfway joked. “However I do believe the added benefit will be a more educated voter.”
State lawmakers have approved a push to remove the option for voters to cast straight party-line ballots by checking one box. On Tuesday, the Republican-led House of Delegates voted 87-13 to prohibit the practice. Only Democrats opposed the bill. The Senate cleared a similar proposal last month. Currently, West Virginia voters can select every candidate from a single party simply by picking the straight-party option.
Iowa voters would no longer have the option of voting a straight-party ticket under a bill that cleared a House subcommittee on Tuesday. Rep. Robert Bacon, R-Slater, said he supported the change because he is concerned voters who mark a ballot to support all the members of one political party may forget to turn the ballot over and mark nonpartisan candidates seeking local offices or board positions and judges up for retention. Bacon and Rep. Jack Drake, R-Griswold, said they believed removing the straight-ticket option would clean up election provisions in the Iowa code. Bacon said Iowa is one of a dozen states that still offers the voting option, and it appeared the numbers “flip-flop” from election to election, so the change would not benefit one political party of another.
When you go to the polls on election day, you can either vote in each individual race or cast a ballot for all of the members of one political party. It’s called straight-ticket voting and fewer than a dozen states allow it. Hoosier lawmakers are considering putting an end to the practice. A framed poster hanging on the wall of the Marion County Democratic Headquarters in Indianapolis prominently features a rooster – the symbol that represents the Democratic Party on Indiana’s ballots. “They were posters that were placed at the precincts on the walls outside of the precincts to remind voters to vote straight party,” Marion County Democratic Chairman Joel Miller says. Basically check a box and all your votes go to either Democrats, Republicans or Libertarians in every race. A proposed bill in the Statehouse could soon make that poster an artifact. House Bill 1008, recently passed by the Indiana House, would eliminate straight-ticket voting in the state.
Editorials: The Next attack on voting rights and why Democrats should fight for a constitutional right-to-vote amendment | Jamelle Bouie/Slate
he last round of voter restrictions came after the 2010 Republican wave, when new GOP majorities passed voter identification laws and slashed ballot access in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Now, three months after the 2014 Republican wave, another class of state lawmakers are prepping another assault on voting rights under the same guise of “uniformity” and “ballot integrity.” In Georgia, reports Zachary Roth for MSNBC, Republicans are pushing a bill to slash early voting from the present maximum of 21 days to 12 days. The goal, says Rep. Ed Rydners, a sponsor of the proposal, is “clarity and uniformity.” “There were complaints of some voters having more opportunities than others,” he said, “This legislation offers equal access statewide.” If cities like Atlanta want to have more voting access, said Rydners, they could open more precincts and “pay to have poll workers present.”
The House Elections committee voted 8-4 Wednesday to move forward a proposal that would eliminate one-button, straight-ticket voting in the state. The vote fell along party lines with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. Under current law, voters can cast their ballots for all of one party’s candidates – Democratic, Republican or Libertarian – with a single click or mark. House Bill 1008 would require voters to choose a candidate specifically for each office. Party identifiers would still be next to each name. Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion – author of the legislation – said in the last election, only one state in the top 10 in terms of voter turnout used straight-ticket voting. In the bottom 10 states – including Indiana – five offer straight-ticket voting.
Straight-ticket voting is a thing of the past, a local state legislator says, and he is carrying a bill to officially make that statement a reality. Currently, Hoosiers can vote for all the candidates from one party with the click of a single button during a general or municipal election. Rep. David Ober, R-Albion, has introduced a bill to remove that option. Ober said the change would update Indiana ballots for modern voting norms. “The way that Hoosier votes are trending is more based on individual candidates and their views rather than a party or platform,” said Ober. “This bill codifies what Hoosier voters are already doing.”
Editorials: Kris Kobach’s bill on straight-ticket voting in Kansas is not helpful | The Kansas City Star
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s voting proposals have always been about marginalizing certain citizens and smoothing the way for Republican candidates. This year’s crop of ideas, a couple of which unfortunately are moving in the Legislature, is more of the same. The House Elections Committee has recommended that the full House pass a Kobach bill to restore straight-ticket voting in Kansas. Combine that with a proposal by Gov. Sam Brownback, which Kobach supports, to move elections for local and judicial races from the spring to the fall, and you can see where this is headed. Brownback and Kobach would love nothing more than to engineer a partisan takeover of local races by creating long ballots with a tempting option at the top to simply vote the ticket.
The bill that would end straight-ticket voting in West Virginia will get a final vote from the state Senate Tuesday before moving to the state House of Delegates for consideration during the ongoing Regular Legislative Session. George Carenbauer, a former state Democratic Party chair, said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline” it’s long past time for the change. “I’m all in favor of things that make it easier and more accessible for people to vote, but I also think the voter has a responsibility to really know what he or she is doing when they go into the voting booth,” he said.
Straight-party voting would no longer be an option in West Virginia under a bill moving through the state Senate. “The right to vote is so important and this freedom that we have to elect people who will govern and represent us is so important,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Trump (R-Morgan, 15), one of the bill’s five sponsors. “It’s not unreasonable to expect that voters should actually look through the ballot and consider the candidates in both parties, all the parties, for each office.” According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, West Virginia is one of 11 states still offering straight-ticket voting, also called straight-party voting. The others are Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, says Kansans should be able to cast a straight-ticket ballot, where a voter could select all of a party’s nominees by checking just one box. “It’s a matter of voter convenience,” he told reporters last week. That would be news to former state Sen. John Loudon of Missouri, also a Republican. In the mid-2000s he sponsored legislation that ended straight-ticket voting in his state, claiming it confused voters. “There’s really no virtue to it at all,” he said then. Now, reasonable politicians can disagree on issues, but both Republicans can’t be right. Straight-ticket balloting either helps voters or hurts them. But the fact that two members of the same party disagree so sharply — in two different states — suggests their views are less about voter convenience and more about manipulating outcomes at the voting booth.
One of the House Republicans’ key priorities is an election bill filed Thursday that would eliminate straight-ticket voting in the general election. Under current law, voters can automatically choose all Democrat, Republican or Libertarian candidates with one click or mark of the ballot. But House Bill 1008 would require voters to choose a candidate specifically for each office. The legislation is being carried by Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion, at the request of House GOP leadership. “As we revolutionize elections and technology continues to creep into the way we campaign and the information available to voters, it’s clear folks are looking at candidates rather than party affiliation,” he said. “We don’t put donkeys and elephants on our signs anymore.” Only 12 states allow or offer straight-ticket voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It has been declining in popularity over the past decade.
Kansas: Kris Kobach proposes bills to return straight-ticket voting, change election-withdraw procedure | The Wichita Eagle
Secretary of State Kris Kobach proposed two election bills Wednesday, one to bring back straight-ticket party voting and another that would make death the only excuse for a candidate’s name to be withdrawn from an election. The two bills are in addition to his ongoing effort to convince the Legislature to let him prosecute voting fraud. A straight-ticket system allows voters to check a single box with the name of a political party to cast a vote for every member of that party on the ballot. Kobach said he wants to bring back the straight-ticket option to cut down on the number of voters who come to the polls, vote in the major races and leave the rest of the ballot blank.
One of every three Iowans — 37 percent — voted a straight-party ticket in the 2014 general election, statistics the Iowa secretary of state’s office compiled for the first time revealed. Expect those results to be part of another bid in the 2015 Iowa Legislature to eliminate straight-ticket voting, the practice that allows voters to fill one oval on the ballot for all of the candidates in one political party. Rep. Peter Cownie, R-West Des Moines, said this week he has filed another attempt to pass the straight-ticket ban in the upcoming session. “This is one area where, if we can just take a little bit of partisanship out of the process, I think it serves all Iowans better,” Cownie said.
One of every three Story County voters — 35 percent — and 37 percent of voters statewide voted a straight-party ticket in the 2014 general election, statistics the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office compiled for the first time revealed. In Story County, 6,004 Democrats and 5,346 Republicans voted straight-party tickets, as did 244 residents for the New Independent Party Iowa and 115 for the Libertarian Party. The practice allows voters to fill one oval on the ballot for all of the candidates in one political party. In the county, 11,709 of the total 33,213 voters chose to do so. Straight-party voting played a role in the race for the Story County Board of Supervisors, in which voters could select up to two candidates on their ballots. A second Republican joined the race late, likely damaging independent challenger Lauris Olson’s bid for a seat through straight-party voting. All four contenders publicly encouraged voters not to cast straight-party tickets.
Several key legislators joined the governor during a signing ceremony Thursday at the State House of legislation to eliminate the “master lever,” or straight-party voting option, on all non-primary Rhode Island elections that will be held after January 1, 2015. Sponsored in the House by Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) and in the Senate by Sen. David E. Bates (R-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), the bills (2014-H 8072A and 2014-S 2091A) were passed by the General Assembly and officially signed by the governor earlier this year.
Editorials: End of straight-ticket voting in North Carolina tinged with racial, age bias | Bob Hall/News Observer
Tucked deep inside North Carolina’s election revision law that has stirred great passion is a provision that barely gets noticed. It’s not part of any lawsuit, but it eliminates a method of voting that affects more people than nearly any other part of the new law. This change also illustrates how lawmakers can manipulate rules to harm one group of voters but wind up harming a large number of their own supporters, too. In 2012, a solid majority – 56 percent – of North Carolina voters marked one box on their ballots to indicate their choices in more than a dozen races, from governor to county commissioner. It’s called straight-ticket voting, and in 2012 it involved 1.4 million ballots for Democratic candidates and 1.1 million for Republicans. In an ideal world, our schools, TV stations and other media would teach people about civics and citizenship, the importance of voting, the candidates and offices on the ballot, and how to determine who’s a goat, not just a donkey or elephant. Instead, voting is discounted, and contests are covered like a horse race – who’s ahead in the polls and who’s got the most money behind him.