In a surprising move, a federal judge in Detroit struck down a Republican law that bans having the option of voting a straight partisan ballot in Michigan. It’s a move sure to give Republicans a very powerful case of indigestion since the move was largely aimed at taking control of the last areas where they do not have control: the State Board of Education and University Boards of Regents and Trustees.
A federal judge in Detroit has issued four preliminary injunctions against state election officials, prohibiting Michigan from enforcing a new law that bans straight-ticket voting.
In a passionate 37-page opinion issued Thursday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin A. Drain said the new law puts a disproportionate burden on African-Americans’ right to vote and will reduce their opportunity to participate in Michigan’s political process compared to other groups of voters.
The real question the court must answer, Drain wrote, is whether the burden caused by the law is “in part caused by or linked to ‘social and historical conditions that have produced or currently produce discrimination against African American.’
“This question is unavoidably answered in the affirmative. African-Americans are much more likely to vote Democrat than other ethnic groups, and many feel this is largely due to racially charged political stances taken by Republicans on the local, state and national level since the post-World War II era,” Drain wrote.
You can read the fascinating and well-constructed opinion HERE.
The response from Republicans is almost comical in its audacity:
Assistant Attorney General Erik Grill … argued last week the elimination of straight-ticket voting wouldn’t actually prevent anyone from voting down the party line — they’d just have to fill in more bubbles.
“Voters are absolutely able to vote for whichever party they choose to, be it Democratic, Republican, Socialist or Communist,” Grill said.
He said in Ottawa County, which is 93 percent white, about 60 percent of voters vote straight-ticket. Grill also criticized what he called Metzger’s “cherry-picked” study for focusing on nine out of Michigan’s 83 counties. Ottawa County was not one of them.
“If they’re being affected, too, it’s not disparate impact, just impact,” he said.
This is a clear admission that the move was impacting all voters which causes long lines at the polls. The disparate racial impact is not only because black folks are more likely to vote a straight ticket. It’s also because they are the ones most likely to encounter inadequate voting facilities or an inadequate number of voting facilities.
But, at the end of the day, it’s the dashing of their hopes of taking control over the groups that have control over education in our state that is causing Republicans the most unspoken consternation. If they can do that, they’ll have control over literally everything pertaining to government in Michigan. And having control over the State Board of Education and University Boards of Regents and Trustees will allow them to wreak even more havoc on our schools, colleges, and university with little to no resistance.
Every once in awhile, the good guys win a round. That said, Republicans are sure to fight this with everything they have. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: As predicted, Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette and Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson have announced that they both plan to appeal Judge Drain’s injunctions.
[CC image credit: 123hamda | Wikimedia Commons]