Fears from straight-ticket voting repeal overblown

Wayne Bradley

A number of liberal Democrat-aligned groups have started sounding the alarm that the recent repeal of Michigan’s straight-ticket voting law will impede the all-important right every citizen has to vote. But this campaign is disrespectful and plays off bad stereotypes of urban voters.

Those who say that this law will disenfranchise voters are saying that minority voters are not savvy enough to adapt to this change in state law, that they’re too incompetent to vote for actual candidates up and down the ballot on Election Day.

It is an insult to African-American voters throughout Michigan to say these laws make it harder for black voters. Considering the real challenges black Americans have faced when it comes to voting, it’s even more insulting to insinuate that taking away straight-ticket voting will disenfranchise them.

The repeal empowers urban voters, and that’s what the Michigan Democrats fear most.

This blatant racism might be expected from Michigan politicians who for decades have taken for granted African-Americans and other minorities. They’ve played the race card against Republicans and pushed for voters to simply check the Democrat box on the ballot.

For more than a century, Democrats in Michigan have been pushing blind loyalty to the brand, asking voters to pay no attention to the actual candidates they’re supporting. No party is owed blind loyalty, and it seems that Democrats are more upset that they now might have to earn the black and urban vote.

What the groups who have filed lawsuits and railed against this new law don’t seem to understand is that there are 41 other states that don’t offer the option of straight-ticket voting to their residents. Not having this option hasn’t led to the massive voter frustration and disenfranchisement some are claiming will occur here.

However, former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer wants you to ignore that fact. He wants to use scare tactics and heated rhetoric to hide the fact that he, and other Michigan Democrats, don’t think voters will support their candidates based on merit.

Repealing straight-ticket voting isn’t, as these groups put it, a deceptive effort to decrease voter turnout in densely populated areas. It asks Michigan voters to be informed when they come to the polls. To vote for the best candidate in each race based on his or her merits, not simply party affiliation.

Should they choose to do so, Michigan voters will still have the opportunity to cast ballots for all candidates of their preferred political party. That option hasn’t gone away. Voters can still choose to cast votes for every candidate that has a “D” or an “R” or an “L” or a “G” next to his or her name.

While certain groups want to keep the status quo and push blind party loyalty over merit, Michigan voters are smarter than that. They’re also smart enough to recognize that the scare tactics being employed by these groups are racist and offensive. All voters, including those in largely urban areas, are smarter than they’re being made out to be. This shameful narrative needs to end.

Wayne Bradley is director of strategic initiatives for the Michigan Republican Party.