Schuette: Why I will continue to defend the voting law


America is a nation of laws. That is why all elected officials, from the president of the United States on down, take an oath. That oath is to preserve, protect and defend the laws of the land.

So it is troubling to see so many voices raised urging Michigan’s top law enforcement official to walk away from the law. Yet that is precisely what is happening today.

Michigan’s Legislature passed a bill that would enable voters to vote for each candidate they wish to support, as opposed to straight ticket voting, which bundles a group of candidates together. After majorities in both the state House and state Senate approved this legislation, the governor signed it into law. That law has since been challenged in court.

And, as is always the case, I have gone to court to defend state law.

The law itself is very straightforward:

Michigan would join 40 other states that enable voters to cast a vote for their chosen candidate.

Enabling voters to vote for individual candidates is not a burden on voting — it is the very act of voting.

To take one example, the 2012 general election in Wayne County, filling out an entire ballot would have required 79 choices; substituting a straight-ticket option would still have required 62 choices.

Critics of Michigan’s law have urged me, acting on behalf of the state, to roll over and walk away from a defense of the law. But that would be a dereliction of duty.

As the Michigan Manual states, “The attorney general is the lawyer for the state of Michigan.” In other words, defending state law is the job of the AG.

When the pensions of cops and firefighters were threatened in Detroit’s bankruptcy, I went to court and defended them. When a voter-approved amendment to the constitution establishing equal admissions to Michigan’s colleges and universities was challenged in court, I defended the constitution.

The Department of Attorney General deals with an average of 40,000 lawsuits a year. As attorney general, it is my sworn duty to uphold and defend these laws — not to substitute my personal judgment and decide which laws I like, and which I don’t.

Laws have consequences. Every nation and state establishes a set of laws to govern conduct. That is why elections for legislators, who write the laws, are so important. Elections matter, because they determine who will write the laws for our state.

Many years ago, a wise lawyer once said, “Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap — let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in primers, spelling books, and in almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice.”

Abraham Lincoln understood that the law must be respected and defended.

Bill Schuette is 53rd attorney general of Michigan.