Governor signs bill eliminating straight-ticket voting

By: Kayla Dimick, Nick Mordowanec | Southfield Sun | Published January 20, 2016

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LANSING —  Gov. Rick Snyder on Jan. 5 signed legislation eliminating straight-ticket voting in Michigan.

Senate Bill 13, which was sponsored by state Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, updates state election law and disallows constituents from voting for single parties with the check of one box in polling places.

“Michigan is one of only 10 states that allows residents to vote for just a party affiliation rather than individual people. It’s time to choose people over politics,” Snyder said in a statement published on the governor’s website. “To alleviate concerns that this change could lead to longer wait times for voters, I’m asking the Legislature to enact secured no-reason absentee voting.”

House Bill 4724 was a piece of legislation introduced by state Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, that would introduce in-person, no-reason absentee voting. Snyder said the House of Representatives passed SB 13 and that it was tie-barred to HB 4724 — meaning SB 13 couldn’t become law unless HB 4724 did.

However, SB 13 was ultimately amended by both houses of the Legislature and passed without a tie-bar to HB 4724, which at press time was still awaiting a vote in the Senate.

Snyder mentioned the National Conference of State Legislatures, which says Michigan is one of 13 states that does not allow for some form of early or no-reason absentee voting. He called the state’s law “archaic.”

“Voters should have at least 15 days to vote by absentee before Election Day,” Snyder said. “I urge the Senate to pass the (no-reason absentee) bill and send it to me as soon as possible to be signed into law. This will not only provide greater access to the polls, (but) it will also help alleviate long lines at the ballot box.”

The new law includes a $5 million appropriation bill for the purchase of new voting equipment to ease Election Day administration, with future investments considered as needed.

Lyons made a statement explaining her “nay” vote on Dec. 16.

“I have always supported eliminating straight-ticket voting because we should vote for people, not political parties,” Lyons said. “However, I have consistently cautioned that we need to be mindful of the impact this will have on Election Day, and we need to provide tools — like offering Michigan voters secure no-reason absentee voting — to mitigate longer lines at the polls. Because this bill falls short of addressing very legitimate concerns, in the end I could not support it.

“I do not believe this policy alone is in the best interest of Michigan’s voters, and it is unfortunate that the Legislature squandered the opportunity to enact good election reform that is not pro-Republican or pro-Democrat, but pro-voter.”

State Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, expressed his opinion on the bill in a statement.

“I voted against Senate Bill 13, which eliminates straight-party voting. This bill is a solution in search of a problem. There is no uproar from election clerks, administrators and voters about issues relating to the current system of straight-party voting,” Moss said in the statement. “Further — particularly egregious — the appropriation allocated in this bill is solely designed to deny citizens the right to subject this legislation to a referendum to repeal it, which they have time and time again.”

Moss said he believes Republicans are attempting to make it more difficult for citizens to vote.

“This bill is not good public policy, but purely a political maneuver by Republicans — and another attempt to make voting more difficult.

Southfield City Clerk Nancy Banks said she is not pleased with the bill, and believes it will create longer lines on Election Day, due to the amount of time it takes to fill out a ballot.

“I am disappointed that the governor signed that bill. As a result, we are going to have long lines in both the primary and general election,” Banks said.

Banks said local clerks attempted to band together to prevent the governor from signing it.

“I don’t know any clerk in Oakland County that is happy with this proposal. The clerks — we pulled together and set up resolutions, we made phone calls and emails begging them not to approve this,” Banks said.

For the presidential election, Banks said she believes the new bill will deter people from filling out the ballot completely.

“People will come only to vote for the president and leave. They’re not going to vote for anybody else. Usually, in a presidential election year, we have the highest turnout. Four years ago, 89 percent (of residents) came to the polls,” Banks said. 

Banks said 95 percent of voters in Southfield vote straight ticket.

“If somebody feels pressured, they’re not going to take the time to vote on the front and the back,” she said. “It’s also sad because people have a difficult time reading. Everybody reads at a different pace, so it’s just going to be longer. There’s absolutely nothing any clerks can do to expedite the process. People are saying to get more voting booths,  but that’s not the answer. You can only process the voters so fast.

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