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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Federal judge blocks straight-ticket voting ban, says it hurts black voters

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A federal judge says a Republican-sponsored law to ban straight ticket voting in Michigan discriminates against African-American voters.

In his decision permanently blocking the straight-ticket ban, U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain wrote that Michigan Republicans intentionally violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution when they passed a bill to eliminate straight-ticket voting. Drain had earlier temporarily blocked it.

The law would have required voters to fill in a box for each individual candidate, instead of voting for one political party all the way down the ticket.

Drain said because black voters overwhelming tend to support Democratic candidates, this law would  help Republican candidates.

“The goal of ending the Democratic Party’s success with straight-ticket voters, therefore, was achieved at the expense of African-Americans’ access to the ballot,” Drain said.

Ari Adler, a spokesman for Governor Snyder, who signed the bill into law, says Governor Snyder doesn’t know if the law negatively affects black voters.

“The governor will be reviewing the ruling with attorneys because he disagrees with the conclusion,” Adler said.

Adler said 40 other states than had already banned straight-ticket voting.

“Forty states who also require voters to make a decision about each office and candidate, rather simply checking a single partisan box,” he said.

Drain’s conclusion also mentions that banning straight-ticket voting makes the voting process more time-consuming for people.

Drain was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama.

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