Michigan’s ban on straight-party voting is reinstated

DETROIT (AP) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday revived Michigan’s ban on straight-party voting.

The decision means voters in the November election must go line by line if they want to vote for candidates in partisan races. In the past, a single mark could automatically count for candidates of a single party, from governor to county commissioner.

The Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder eliminated straight-party voting, saying people should study candidates instead of simply choosing a party. But the law was recently thrown out by a judge who said the ban violated the rights of black voters, who historically favor Democrats.

In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court halted that decision and said U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain’s ruling likely would be reversed after a full appeal.

“Forty other states have already enacted the same kind of law, including most recently Rhode Island. None of them have ever been declared unconstitutional,” Judge Raymond Kethledge said.

The Michigan law, he said, probably resulted from a “mix of policy and partisan reasons.”

“The same is likely true of most laws,” Kethledge added. “But where the district court was most clearly mistaken, I respectfully submit, was in equating partisan motives with racial ones.”

In dissent, Judge Bernice Donald said Michigan’s secretary of state had failed to show that Drain’s decision was “clearly unreasonable.”

Kethledge and Judge Danny Boggs are ignoring the “shameful and painful history of disenfranchisement, suppression and dilution of African-American voters,” Donald said.

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