MichMash: Will We or Won’t We Be Allowed To Vote Straight-Party Ticket This November?

Cheyna Roth and Jake Neher liken the back-and-forth on straight ticket voting to Michigan’s ever-changing weather.

WDET Digital

Michigan voters won’t be able to fill in one bubble to vote for all candidates of a single party during the November election. In the past, voters have had that option.

On Wednesday night, a federal appeals court overturned a lower court’s decision that previously struck down Michigan’s ban on straight-ticket voting. This comes shortly before election officials are supposed to finalize the November ballots. The U.S. Supreme Court Friday evening denied a request for an emergency appeal.

As part of the weekly series MichMash, Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk about how Michigan’s reinstated ban on straight-party ticket voting might change the nature of the midterms.

Click on the audio player above to hear that conversation.

“This is something of an ongoing saga, where not too long ago a U.S. District Court judge declared Michigan’s ban on straight-ticket voting unconstitutional,” says Roth. “And he said that it presents a disproportionate burden on African Americans’ rights to vote.”

The overturning of that decision is the latest wrinkle in the latest chapter of said saga — a chapter that started in 2015 when the Republican-led state Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder approved the straight-ticket voting ban. Their argument was that voters should have to make individual decisions about candidates, not just vote for one party or the other. Critics said it was a more cynically-motivated attempt to get rid of a voting practice that generally favors Democrats. 

But Democrats aren’t always the beneficiaries of straight-ticket voting, says Zach Gorchow, editor of the Lansing-based Gongwer news service. He appeared on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson this week, and said one simply has to look to the 2016 election just two years ago to see it doesn’t always shake out that way.

“The Republicans swept a lot of areas in places like Macomb County and elsewhere because Donald Trump, if you subtract Oakland and Wayne counties, crushed it,” says Gorchow.

“Straight-ticket was clearly a boon for Republicans everywhere outside of those two counties for the most part.”

Although this ballot won’t include a straight-party ticket option for voters, a proposal to reinstate straight-party voting will be on the ballot. That’s part of a ballot initiative certified this week by the Board of State Canvassers. The Promote the Vote campaign’s ballot question would allow straight-ticket voting, no-reason absentee voting, additional time for members of the military to vote, allow people to register to vote at any time with proof of residency, protect secret ballots, and require audits for election results.

If approved, it would represent another swing of the pendulum when it comes to straight-ticket voting in Michigan.

“What we’re seeing here is really kind of indicative of a larger thing in Michigan politics where you’re getting this back-and-forth a lot. And straight-party voting is very emblematic of that,” says Roth.

“Politics in Michigan is a lot like Michigan’s weather. If you don’t like it — wait a little bit.”


  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.