It’s Not Racist to Not Have Straight-Ticket Voting

No, it’s not racist: There is no constitutional right to straight-party voting, and there is no evidence that eliminating the convenience discourages more black voters than white voters simply because voting takes a little longer.

 

But that didn’t stop a U.S. District Court Judge in Michigan, Gershwin A. Drain, from ruling otherwise and granting a temporary injunction blocking Michigan’s law ending straight-party voting – a ruling the U.S. Supreme Court declined to stay.

 

As Hans von Spakovsky explains, the plaintiffs in the case “didn’t come close to proving all of the factors needed to show a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”

The institute’s arguments and the judge’s conclusion are also based on a very patronizing, almost racist view of the black residents of Michigan: that they are not as capable as other voters of marking a ballot without straight-ticket voting and don’t have the patience to wait 20 minutes to vote.

 

Only nine states offer straight-ticket voting; the overwhelming majority of states do not… Georgia eliminated straight-ticket voting in 1994 when the state was completely controlled by the Democratic Party. At the time, that change had to be submitted to the U.S. Justice Department to comply with the preclearance requirement of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

 

In August 1994, the Clinton administration’s Civil Rights Division sent Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers a letter clearing the change, having concluded that it would have no discriminatory effect on black voters… Clearly, straight-party voting is not required for any qualified voter in Michigan to fully exercise his or her right to vote, regardless of race or color.

 

Drain’s legal reasoning in this case has absurd implications. It means the 41 states that don’t have straight-ticket voting are all apparently violating the Constitution and discriminating against their minority voters under the Voting Rights Act.

 

Moreover, this case exemplifies how the dubious legal theory of disparate impact is being used (and abused) to make or stop changes in election administration.

 

These changes have nothing to do with discriminatory conduct or any violation of the fundamental right to vote. They have everything to do with partisan advocacy organizations and judges wanting to use the power of the courts to implement their own policy choices in how elections are administered and what rules govern registration and voting.