- The Michigan legislature eliminated straight-party voting in 2015
- Straight-party voting allows a voter to vote for all candidates of their political party with one mark
In a one-page order, justices denied a request from Michigan's Secretary of State to allow a law banning the practice to go into effect, pending appeal.
For 125 years the state has allowed straight-party voting which allows a voter to vote for all candidates of their desired political party by making one mark rather than voting for each partisan candidate individually. In 2015, however, the Michigan legislature passed a regulation that eliminated it.
Challengers, including individual voters, Common Cause and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, argued in briefs filed with the Supreme Court that if straight ticket voting were to be eliminated for the next election it would cause voter confusion and longer lines at polling places, particularly for African-American voters who rely on the practice.
"It is about the unconstitutional consequences for millions of voters of eliminating this option in the unique context of Michigan elections—massive confusion and even longer lines at polling places deterring voters, especially African-American voters, from voting," wrote Mary Ellen Gurewitz a lawyer for the groups.
Gurewitz argued that straight party line tickets serve an "essential function" in Michigan, "in a state which offers no option to vote by mail, no early voting and no easy voting by absentee ballot."
Lawyers for the state defended the law passed and argued in the state's briefs that "neither the Equal Protection Clause, nor the Voting Rights Act require straight-ticket voting". They pointed out that Michigan has joined 40 other states "by requiring voters to actually vote for each candidate they intend to support."
"Requiring voters to actually vote for individual candidates would not be a harm to any voter, let alone an irreparable one," they argued.
Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito said they would have granted Michigan's request.