Election 2012
8:34 pm
Fri October 5, 2012

Federal judge orders removal of citizenship checkbox on Michigan ballot

DETROIT (AP) - A judge has told Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to remove citizenship check-off boxes from November ballot applications.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman made the ruling Friday during a hearing in Detroit. A written decision is expected Tuesday.

Borman told Johnson the boxes that ask Michigan voters to confirm their U.S. citizenship slows the voting process, is confusing and is a burden on the right to vote.

Lawyers representing the secretary of state have argued the citizenship question could prevent an unqualified person from voting and committing a crime.

The American Civil Liberties Union's Michigan chapter, unions and others wanted the court to order Johnson to stop requiring the check box. The groups also want all clerks to be told the box shouldn't be used.

ORIGINAL POST 5:18PM

A federal judge in Detroit is weighing arguments for and against a citizenship question on November ballot applications.

A coalition of local election officials, advocacy groups, and voters is asking the judge to halt the use of the box. They say it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution.

Bruce Fealk with the Michigan Election Reform Alliance is optimistic about the judge’s decision.

“I’m hopeful, based on the judge’s questions, that he will issue an emergency injunction and that hopefully the question will either be crossed off the ballot applications that have already been distributed, or that he might even order new ballot applications to be printed that don’t have the question on there," he said.

The coalition’s attorneys read testimony this morning from a number of city and county clerks who do not plan to use the question. They say it will create confusion, delays, and could open voters who do not wish to answer the question to ridicule.  

Voters would not be denied a ballot if they refuse to answer.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson ordered the question on the ballot applications. Her attorneys say it’s a good way to make sure only eligible voters get ballots.