Supreme Court rejects Michigan
straight-ticket voting appeal
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[September 12, 2016]
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme
Court on Friday rejected a bid by Michigan to reinstate its
Republican-backed ban on straight-ticket voting for the Nov. 8 general
The justices left in place a decision by a federal district judge in
Michigan who in July suspended a law that abolished straight-ticket
voting, the practice of using one mark to vote for all candidates from
one party, finding that it would disproportionately affect black voters.
The 6th U.S. Court of Appeals upheld that finding last month, prompting
the state to seek a stay from the Supreme Court.
Two conservative justices on the eight-member court, Clarence Thomas and
Samuel Alito, voted to grant the request, the brief order said.
The Michigan law, passed by a Republican-controlled legislature and
signed by a Republican governor, was one of numerous voting measures
passed at the state level that put new restrictions on voting. These
measures also include stricter voter-identification laws and reduction
of early-voting periods before election day.
Proponents of the law, enacted in January, have said most states have
moved away from a straight-ticket voting option. Removing the option
forces voters to study candidates and encourages voters to make
decisions based on criteria other than party affiliation, they said.
Opponents say voting restrictions are aimed at reducing turnout of
minorities, who are more likely to vote for Democrats.
U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain in July granted a preliminary
injunction sought by civil rights and labor groups who sued Michigan's
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Attorney General Bill Schuette. The
judge said elimination of straight-ticket voting would be a burden on
voting rights and cause long wait times at polls.
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A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington,
U.S., May 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
After Friday's decision, Schuette said, “It is my duty to defend
Michigan’s laws, in this case a law that stands in 40 other states.
Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken and I will respect that
The case is one of several voting disputes being litigated ahead of
the election and is the second emergency application the Supreme
Court has recently been asked to handle. On Aug. 31, the court
rejected a bid by North Carolina to reinstate for November’s
elections several voting restrictions, including a requirement that
people show identification at the polls.
The high court is short one justice following the death of
conservative Antonin Scalia in February. As a result the court is
evenly split 4-4 between liberals and conservatives.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Ben Klayman
in Detroit; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Matthew Lewis)
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