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Local clerks blast bill to eliminate straight-ticket voting in Michigan

Dec 3, 2015

Credit kakisky / morgueFile

Local clerks and activists panned an effort to end straight-ticket voting in Michigan at a state House hearing on Thursday.

Voters would no longer be able to fill in one bubble to vote for every candidate representing a single political party on the ballot.

Clerks say the change would make lines and wait times longer on Election Day.

“The average wait time is 22 minutes,” said Walker City Clerk Sarah Bydalek, who spoke on behalf of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks.

“So now, if everybody has to go all the way down every ballot and every candidate and mark their ballot, that could probably double.”

Activists told the state House Elections Committee that Senate Bill 13 would make voting more difficult - especially for the elderly, people with disabilities, and those in low-income urban areas.

“By making voting more difficult, the very people who need their voices heard are silenced,” said JoeAnne Peterson, a retired teacher and former precinct worker from Grand Rapids.

When it comes to long lines in urban areas of the state, state Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Twp., countered that funding disparities are likely the reason for the wait times in those precincts.

“So maybe it is a funding issue rather than the issue of this exact bill,” said Kesto.

Supporters of the bill say voters should cast votes for individual candidates, not political parties.

The committee adjourned Thursday evening without a vote on the legislation. Elections chair Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, said members need more time to consider issues brought up during testimony, which was overwhelmingly critical of the bill.

Lyons say the bill is related to an effort to make absentee voting easier in Michigan. Local clerks say no-reason absentee voting would ease concerns about longer lines and wait times on Election Day.

Lyons says she’s asking Republican House leaders for a vote on House Bill 4724 to allow no-reason absentee voting before the end of the year.