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Michigan officials seek stay of injunction that allows straight-ticket voting

Julie Mack/AP Wire • Aug 16, 2018 at 7:00 AM

LANSING — Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is asking a federal judge to reconsider his decision to allow straight-ticket voting on the November 2018 ballot, according to an emergency court motion filed Tuesday.

The motion asks U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain to issue an immediate stay pending appeal of Drain's Aug. 9 injunction on a 2016 Michigan law that removes the straight-party voting option.

The motion asks for a decision by Friday, Aug. 17, citing the need to set the November ballot.

The motion, which was filed by Attorney General Bill Schuette, argues that the state is likely to prevail on appeal and voters will not be harmed if the straight-ticket option is not available.

Drain's order "contains manifest errors and must be stayed to ensure that Michigan runs a fair and orderly election," the motion says. "There is irreparable harm to Defendant when a duly enacted law is facially challenged and subsequently permanently enjoined."

"In contrast, there is no harm to Plaintiffs or any Michigan voter – regardless of race – because the law prohibits no one from casting their vote however s/he wishes while the status quo of the duly enacted P.A. 268 is maintained," the motion says.

Straight-party voting has been an option in Michigan since 1891. Instead of filling out the entire ballot, a voter has the option to fill out one party's bubble, thus voting for the party's candidates in all the races.

Eliminating the option has gone to Michigan voters twice, in 1964 and 2001. Both time, residents voted to retain the option.

In 2015, the Michigan Legislature passed a bill that would eliminate the option. Gov. Rick Snyder signed the bill into law in January 2016.

The law never took effect.

The Michigan A. Philip Randolph Institute filed suit against the secretary of state claiming that it violated the Voting Rights Act by unfairly targeting the black community.

In July 2016, Drain issued an injunction to allow straight-ticket voting in the 2016 election.

Earlier this month, Drain permanently blocked the law, saying it "unduly burdens the right to vote, reflects racial discriminatory intent harbored by the Michigan Legislature, and disparately impacts African-Americans' opportunity to vote in concert with social and historical conditions of discrimination."

Eleven other states have eliminated straight-ticket voting in recent years.

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