The following guest post was written by Barb Byrum. Barb is currently the Ingham County Clerk and is a former State Representative who served three terms in Michigan House of Representatives from 2007-2012. She is currently running for re-election to serve a second term as the Clerk of Ingham County. Byrum grew up in Onondaga, Michigan, a small rural town in southwestern Ingham County and continues to live there today with her spouse and children.
Attorney General Bill Schuette’s attempt to reinstate a law banning straight-ticket voting through the 2016 General Election is unacceptable. Michigan voters have had the option to cast a straight-ticket vote for more than a century and changing it now, right before the State General Election is wrong.
A county clerk’s job consists of many constitutional and statutory duties, but perhaps the most important responsibility is that of being the chief election official for the entire county.
As the chief election official for Ingham County, I am responsible for conducting elections within my jurisdiction. This means I am responsible for the layout, production, and printing of more than 150 style types of ballots for 118 precincts in the upcoming General Election.
Keep in mind that the deadline to submit ballot wording for county and local proposals is August 16th and for state proposals the deadline is September 9th. These are tight deadlines because I must ensure that ballots make it to our military service members and other voters who are overseas by September 24th.
To complete the layout of the ballot, including sending proof ballots to each candidate and correcting name misspellings, could take up to two weeks alone. The printing and shipping of the ballots could possibly take up to another week after that.
Any hold up on this process would ultimately hurt voters.
With regard to straight-ticket voting, Michigan voters have twice voiced their opinion by statewide ballot proposal. In the November 1964 election, more than 65% of Michiganders voted to retain straight-ticket voting after the Legislature and Governor passed a law to do away with it. Later, in the November 2002 election, more than 59% of Michiganders again voted to retain straight-ticket voting after the Legislature and Governor tried—again—to do away with it. SchuetteOnDuty is now deliberately going against those voters who decided twice to allow for the opportunity to vote using a straight-ticket. He is clearly only concerned with the will of the voters, when it comes to marriage.
With special interests in control of both the Republican Legislature and Republican Governor, enacting the ban on straight-ticket voting will make it more difficult to vote because the wait times to vote will get longer and longer and longer. In effect, this slimy tactic will hurt voter turnout. SchuetteOnDuty is working hard to disenfranchise voters, making it more difficult to get ballots printed in a timely manner and increasing voter and election worker confusion by appealing the District Court’s ruling that authorized straight-ticket voting in the November election.
Michigan has some of the longest ballots in the nation and it will take approximately 10 minutes to vote the entire ballot. This timing does not even take into consideration the increased risk of mistakes, the consequence being spoiled ballots, which would require a new ballot for the voter and yet more time to complete the voting process.
Hurting voter turnout has been a continuous trend amongst Republicans. They have made it more difficult for voters by requiring photo identification, which does absolutely nothing to curb election fraud. They have also continued to require a reason to vote by absentee ballot and not allow same-day voter registration. This is plain, slimy politicking by the Republicans and the special interests that control them. They have no regard for the will of Michiganders, or for what is right—plain and simple.
SchuetteOnDuty says he acknowledges the tight timeframe before the General Election, but in reality, he has no idea and no respect for the voters or election officials.
I call on the Court of Appeals to uphold the rights of all Michigan voters and uphold the U.S. District Court ruling.
I call on Michigan Voters to check their registration status at https://webapps.sos.state.mi.us/MVIC/ and request an Absentee Ballot at https://www.michigan.gov/documents/AbsentVoterBallot_105377_7.pdf.