Court turns back clock on election reform

Re: Neal Rubin’s Aug. 18 column “A ‘yes’ vote for the judges on straight tickets”: For the past 50 years, reformers have reduced political parties’ control over elections. But recently, a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion turned back the clock on this progress.

My legislation to eliminate the straight ticket voting box option isn’t something that only recently became important. I began working on the issue as a member of the House of Representatives in 2009 and first introduced it in 2012.

It’s precisely because offices like drain commissioner are important that my bill is needed. In Oakland County, the drain commissioner (known as the water resources commissioner) has a $400 million budget and employs 300 people.

To suggest, as Rubin does, that any partisan apparatchik that the local party machine puts on the ballot, and who gets waved through to the position due to a straight-ticket vote is up to the task of being a drain commissioner demonstrates a shocking lack of understanding of the importance of this office.

Political party bosses who oppose the law contend that eliminating the straight ticket voting box option will lead to longer lines at the polls. They’re wrong too. If they would have read the whole law, they would have noticed that instructing the state to purchase new voting equipment was included to alleviate that concern.

Even if they were right, voting is not an issue of fast food drive-thru, where speed of service is as important as the final product. This is an issue of choosing the men and women who lead our local, state and federal governments. The decisions they make have very real consequences in our daily lives.

Forty states have either eliminated straight-ticket voting or never had it. Is it only in Michigan that voters cannot seem to navigate their way through a ballot and must be led by party elites? Some seem to believe voters are too stupid unless given a shortcut in the voting process.

Instead of rubber stamping a candidate that has been chosen for us by party bosses, shouldn’t we encourage citizens to fully engage in the selection of our leaders by pausing, making a thoughtful decision, and voting for an individual based on his or her merits, and not based solely on party affiliation?

The answer is yes. Good government demands it. The 6th Circuit’s ruling must be overturned.

Marty Knollenberg, state senator

Michigan’s 13th district