Michigan SOS urged to educate public on elimination of straight party voting

Voting rights and civic engagement groups sent a letter Tuesday Oct. 9 to Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to demand she release her plan to educate voters around the elimination of straight party voting in Michigan.

The groups stated their concern that the Secretary of State has failed to appropriately communicate with voters, even as absentee ballots are currently being sent out.

“The elimination of straight party voting happened in the last hour due to a court ruling that Ruth Johnson and her office pushed for,” said Anita Dawson, state president for the A. Philip Randolph Institute – Michigan. “It’s concerning that with this push Secretary of State Johnson, as the chief administrator of elections in Michigan, has failed to adequately educate voters and we are demanding a plan from her to fix this.”

In the letter, voting rights advocates stated that with the end of the 127-year voting practice, many voters may be confused when they receive a ballot and are unable to vote straight-party.

Nearly half of Michigan voters have used the option over past elections.

Within that, a large majority of African-Americans used the option, which led to a federal judge ruling the elimination of straight party voting to be discriminatory.

The ruling was overturned by a panel within 6th Circuit Court after Johnson appealed the decision.

“Voters who continue to face forms of voter disenfranchisement will get their ballots with yet another obstacle to face with straight party voting eliminated,” said Denzel McCampbell, deputy communications director for Engage Michigan. “We fear this will lead to longer lines, increased ballot spoilage, and overall confusion from voters, especially if the Secretary of State does not do a public education campaign. We should be making voting more accessible for voters, not creating more obstacles.”

The following organizations signed on to the letter:

Philip Randolph Institute – Michigan
ACLU of Michigan
Campus Vote Project
Engage Michigan
Fair Elections Center
Grand Rapids A. Philip Randolph Institute
Michigan State Conference – NAACP
Michigan Voice
National Network for Arab American Communities
Grand Rapids PROACTIVE
Sierra Club – Michigan Chapter

A copy of the letter can be found here.