See update below.
Last month, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum wrote a piece for Eclectablog about Attorney General Bill Schuette’s crusade to ensure straight-ticket voting is banned forever in Michigan. In her essay, Barb explained how, at its core, Schuette’s effort is little more than an attempt to disenfranchise voters in our state.
After a 3-judge panel of the 6th District Court upheld a decision by U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain to stop the GOP-led state legislature from enacting the ban, Schuette went back to the trough and asked for the entire 6th District Court to consider reversing Judge Drain’s decision, something referred to as an “en banc” hearing.
“The preliminary injunction keeps in place the law of Michigan for the past 125 years allowing straight-party voting,” said Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore, concurring in the majority decision that all circuit judges would not hear the case in what is known as an “en banc” hearing.
She said it is standard for a three-judge panel to rule on the merits of an appeal before an en banc hearing is requested, and called appealing directly to the full panel of judges “a clear attempt at an end-run” around the 6th Circuit’s operating procedures.
At the moment the original three-judge panel still has to weigh in on his request for reconsideration but it’s highly unlikely they’ll reverse course.
Schuette has not decided whether or not to throw our fall election into complete chaos by pursuing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. See update below.
Responding to the smack down, House Republican Leader Kevin Cotter issued a press release saying, “Only Michigan is forced to keep in place a tool of party-machine politics. Only Michigan is bound by discredited case law that has already been vacated and rejected. And, unlike the 49 other states that get to decide whether to have straight-ticket voting … only Michigan has been ordered by the federal court to have it or else.”
This is a comically wrong statement. In fact, it’s a lie. Michigan voters have voted against eliminating the straight-ticket voting option TWICE. In other words, Michigan already HAS decided whether to have straight-ticket voting. It’s Republicans in our state legislature that haven’t gotten the message. It’s also why they put an appropriation in their bill which makes it “democracy-proof”, ensuring that Michigan voters never get to have their say on the matter again.
This is a big win for democracy in our state and a clear message to Republican legislators that they are overstepping their bounds. And it’s time for Schuette to stop using his office to shore up his 2018 gubernatorial candidacy. While it’s not the first time he’s wasted taxpayer dollars to promote himself — I’ve written about that extensively (e.g., HERE) — it needs to be his last.
Former Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer deserves major kudos for this victory. He has been the lead attorney as this has made its way through the courts and his skill and professionalism is a large reason why the ban was struck down. We all owe him a huge debt of gratitude.
One final reminder: the ban on straight-ticket voting isn’t just to ensure that it’s harder for voters in highly-Democratic districts to vote. It’s also a blatant attempt by Republicans to assume control over the one last vestige of government controlled by Democrats — State Board of Education and University Boards of Regents and Trustees. Here’s what I’ve written before about this:
People like me frequently say that “Republicans control every aspect of government in Michigan”. However, that’s not entirely true. The one place where Democrats still maintain a majority is the State Board of Education. And that is at the core of this entire tempest in a piss pot. Republicans cannot stand the fact that they don’t control this group and are using the LGBTQ guidance as a smokescreen for their efforts to either take control or eliminate it entirely.
You can be very sure that when Republicans passed the law preventing straight-ticket ballots in Michigan, this was one of the reasons they did it: straight-ticket voting helps Democrats in less-known races like the State Board of Education and University Boards of Regents and Trustees.
So, don’t be fooled. And if you have any doubt that what I say is true, I point to the fact that, when Democrats introduced legislation to move the non-partisan part of the ballot to the top, Republicans referred it to the House Committee on Elections last spring and it has sat there without a single hearing or further action since then.
UPDATE: As if on cue:
Attorney General Bill Schuette on Friday filed an emergency motion asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate Michigan’s straight-ticket voting ban in time for the Nov. 8 election.
In a filing on behalf of Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Schuette asked the court for a response by Thursday, one day before the statewide ballot is set to be finalized.
This is not an honest effort. This is an intentional effort to throw Michigan’s elections into turmoil in a year when Republicans are on the ropes because of their hideous presidential candidate and, here in Michigan, because the Republican brand has been so badly damaged by our corporatist governor, his corporatist administration, and our bought-and-paid for Republican legislators. And he’s using YOUR tax dollars to do it.