Schuette takes straight-party voting fight to Supreme Court

LANSING, MICH. - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, facing increasing criticism for continuing his court fight with the deadline nearing to finalize Michigan's election ballot, took his fight against straight-party voting to the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday.

Attorney General Schuette has filed an emergency application ... for a stay with the United States Supreme Court," spokeswoman Andrea Bitely said Friday.

Schuette asked for an answer by Sept. 8  "in order for election officials to move forward with printing ballots for the November elections," she said.

State officials say the ballot for the Nov. 8 election must be finalized by Sept. 9 to allow for printing and processing of absentee ballots, and they need to know whether straight-party voting will be an option.

On Thursday, the full U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said it wouldn't hear Schuette's appeal of a federal judge's injunction against a state law banning straight-party voting in Michigan.

Instead, the appellate court sent the case back to the same three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit that earlier refused to block a preliminary injunction against the law, issued by U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain in Detroit, who said it was likely the law would unconstitutionally disadvantage black voters.

That meant the same three-judge panel is to give expedited consideration of Schuette's appeal of Drain's preliminary injunction, instead of the full panel of 6th Circuit judges, as Schuette requested.

The law banning straight-party voting was passed by the Republican-led Legislature late last year and signed into law by GOP Gov. Rick Snyder in January.

Clerks say banning straight-ticket voting will cause delays, especially if the change isn't coupled with any-reason absentee voting, which the Michigan Legislature considered, but did not approve.

Schuette and other Republicans say straight-party voting, which is banned in 40 states, represents poor civic engagement, and voters should consider each race and its candidates individually.

"Requiring voters to actually vote for individual candidates would not be a harm to any voter," Schuette said in a court filing asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stay Drain's preliminary injunction. "In contrast, the state suffered an irreparable harm when the district court enjoined its statute..."

Drain ruled in July that banning straight-party voting would result in longer lines and waiting times to vote. That would disadvantage all voters, but especially black voters because data show the use of straight-party voting is strongest in large Michigan cities such as Detroit, where blacks are concentrated, he said.

In a news release, Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon called Schuette's actions "a crusade.

"“Bill Schuette is a desperate man who will stop at nothing to waste taxpayer dollars and jeopardize the fairness and integrity of our elections, all in an effort to please his big-money GOP donors," Dillon said.

“He’s gone against the will of Michigan voters, he’s ignored three separate rulings by federal judges, including the entire Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and now he’s gone beyond the pale with his personal crusade to strip Michigan voters of the right to vote straight ticket."

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.

(© 2016 WZZM)


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