Straight-ticket voting fight straight-up frustrating for county clerks


LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Voters rejected it. Republicans say it promotes thoughtful democracy. Democrats say it makes voting hard for the disenfranchised. Now it will be up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide if there will be straight-ticket voting on this November’s ballot.

But while the fight in the courts is all about naked partisanship, county clerks are nervous that the last minute wrangling will mean problems at the polls.

“It’s frustrating to have the back and forth so close to significant deadlines in our process,” said Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck

After two courts have rejected the legislation signed by the governor earlier this year citing harm to the voting rights of minorities, State Attorney General Bill Schuette is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the ban on the straight-ticket voting option.

>>PDF: Michigan’s emergency request

County clerks have been opposed to the ban saying it overturns a 125-year tradition in Michigan and having the option speeds up the voting process.

“We’re opening the door for longer lines — significantly longer lines,” Roebuck said.

But now, it is the uncertainty of whether there will be the option on the ballot that worries clerks who have to have things ready for a major election in only 10 weeks.

“When you’re looking at the uncertainty this close to the election there’s no way that we can properly educate voters,” Roebuck said.

The clerks also have to have hundreds of thousands of ballots printed and make changes in complicated software.

Ultimately, that affects our voters if we were pressured to a deadline that we couldn’t realistically meet, then it makes it very challenging for us to produce what’s best for our voters,” Roebuck said.

The first voter to be affected would be those overseas and in the military that have to have ballots right away.

I talked to Kent County Clerk Mary Hollenrake who says the state’s contention that they have until Sept. 9 to make a decision is not realistic and serves no civic purpose to do it now instead of waiting until the next election cycle.

“There’s no question that — for the sake of the smooth running, effective operation of our election process – we need to know what’s going on by next Friday.” Roebuck said.

Former state solicitor general John Bursch told 24 Hour News 8 he expects the Supreme Court will make a quick decision. He said it is not unusual for the court to expedite its process for cases like this.

Earlier this week, a divided SCOTUS refused to reinstate North Carolina’s voting law that would implemented strict voter identification and restricted early voting.

Michigan clerks want a decision as soon as possible.

“Things could go wrong if we haven’t had the deliberation, the time to deliberately plan and proof properly and we have to ask ourselves ‘for what reason?’” Roebuck said.

The AG’s request would go to Justice Elana Kagan — an appointee of President Barack Obama — and she could decline the request on her own or ask the other seven members of the court to make the decision.

Most legal experts say it is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court will reinstate the ban, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t still be a delay for those who oversee our local elections.

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