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In Michigan, You Can Check A Box To Vote Down A Ballot, Supreme Court Says

A resident votes in the Michigan primary on March 8 in Royal Oak, Michigan.
Bill Pugliano
Getty Images
A resident votes in the Michigan primary on March 8 in Royal Oak, Michigan.

The Supreme Court on Friday temporarily invalidated Michigan's new ban on straight-ticket voting. The court let stand lower court rulings that blocked the ban from going into effect.

The straight-ticket option allows voters to cast their ballots for all candidates of one party with a single mark.

Last January, the Republican-controlled Legislature in Michigan voted to ban the straight-ticket option, which was first enacted 125 years ago and is popular particularly among black urban voters as well as in some heavily Republican areas.

In July, a federal judge temporarily blocked the ban from going into effect, saying it would create longer lines and disproportionately affect black voters. A federal appeals court refused a request to block the lower court order, and Republican state officials appealed to the Supreme Court asking the justices to let the law go into effect.

But the high court refused to intervene, over the objections of the court's two most conservative justices — Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. So Michigan voters, at least for this year's elections, will be able to cast straight party votes.

Currently 40 states ban the straight-ticket option. And Friday's Supreme Court action is not necessarily the final word on the subject.

So far this fall, the court has consistently followed the practice of refusing to intervene in election disputes so close to the November ballot. That has resulted in a number of victories for civil rights groups because they have prevailed in the lower courts. Still waiting for resolution is an appeal of a decision that went the other way, in favor of new restrictions on early voting in Ohio.

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Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.
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