On January 5th, Governor Snyder signed a bill into law that would ban straight ticket voting in Michigan. The House Democratic Caucus vehemently opposed Senate Bill 13, which has been particularly controversial because a version of this bill was twice passed in Michigan, and both times been repealed through voter referendum. In order to prevent the same balance of power from being applicable to this bill, House Republicans attached two appropriations totaling $6 million to the bill, making it referendum-proof.
“They claim that they want a more informed electorate, but by including an appropriation, they show that they don’t want that electorate deciding that this bill is bad policy, as they’ve done twice before. It’s completely disrespectful and hypocritical,” said state Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), a member of the House Elections and Ethics Committee.
The straight-ticket ban would prevent voters from checking the single box at the top of the ballot in order to vote for all Democratic or Republican candidates. Republicans claim the bill aims to “… give people an opportunity to look at and study candidates and issues.” Yet local clerks and township representatives testified that the only measurable impact it would have on voters would be longer wait times and greater confusion.
House Democrats fought back proposing more than twenty amendments to the bill, including one to allow no-reason absentee voting. Unfortunately every single one was defeated in a party-line vote. Two particular amendments, which would allow seniors and those with disabilities to skip the long lines inevitably created by the ban, were deemed “not germane” by committee Chairwoman Rep. Lisa Lyons (R-Alto) and never received a vote.
“The long lines that SB 13 creates will hit voters in dense urban districts the hardest,” said state Rep. LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit.) “This is a thinly veiled attempt by Lansing Republicans to discourage certain voters from exercising their franchise that will create a mass amount of confusion at the polls. The right to vote is one of the core freedoms in our democracy, and we should never make it harder for people to use that right.”
“We’ve seen no action on legislation to create an independent redistricting commission and other bills that would improve our democracy, but House Republicans are trying to make voting harder, and a bill to allow even more corporate money into campaigns is on the fast track in the Senate,” said state Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), also a member of the committee. “Republicans are once again rigging the system in their favor to maintain their stranglehold on state government. The lack of trust in the voters these bills display should be insulting to all voters, regardless of their party.”