The quiet struggle for voter reform in Michigan you're not hearing about.

votingThe basic gist is this: in Michigan, voters can currently do a one-check party line option when they vote. Hit the button, elect the slate, go home – and never think about who you’re voting for. Well, that particular practice is in the process of being repealed (passed the Michigan Senate, being considered in the Michigan House), and you can imagine how much local Democrats love that: the Detroit Free Press is yelling six ways from Sunday on the topic, complete with inflammatory headlines like, I kid you not, “Don’t deny voters the right to vote a straight ticket.” …I flatter myself that I have some command of written English, and thus I can assure you: ‘the ability to effortlessly vote a partisan ticket’ is not semantically equivalent to ‘the right to vote a straight ticket.’  Anybody who tells you otherwise is engaged in shenanigans – or, in this case, the head of the Michigan State Board of Education, which frankly makes me weep for the coming generation.


The wrinkle in all of this is that there’s a counter-proposal from House Republicans to bundle this bill with one expanding absentee voting.  The idea there apparently is to sweeten the blow for Democrats by allowing them more opportunities to encourage people to legitimately request absentee ballots. This is not necessarily semantically equivalent to ‘encouraging voter fraud,’ per se: strategic lock-down of votes by getting people to vote by absentee ballot well before the election is, in fact, a legitimate tactic. Maybe not really good for the Republic, but legitimate. At any rate, the Michigan Senate is dubious about that; so I guess… there’s going to be a debate about that?

You’re probably wondering at this point why I’m bringing this up. The real question is, why do I have to be the one that has to bring this up? This is obviously an honest-to-God legitimate policy issue; straight-ticket voting has its boosters, and despite my pawkish tone in the first paragraph not everybody who is a booster of the practice is a horrible human being. Alas, we’re at the start of a Presidential election cycle, so we’re all stuck hoping that somebody like me happens to notice that the state of Michigan is in the middle of a genuinely significant political discussion over how much accommodation the state should give to the two major political parties.


The moral that I suppose that people should take away from this is this: the Presidential election is absolutely, vitally important, of course.  But it’s not the end-all and be-all of American politics – no matter how exciting that a Presidential race can be.  We have a lot of politicians – not all of whom are Democrats, by a long shot – who are just as happy to not have regular Americans looking over the politicians’ shoulders and asking impertinent questions like “What are you doing?” or “Who told you that you could do that?” or (my favorite) “Just how much is this going to cost me, anywawy?”

And I’m not so upset about that: after all, politicians are gonna political.  But that just means that it’s the duty of American citizens to not let politicians get away with that quite so easily as it sometimes seems the politicians do. We all have our job to do, and frankly? You shouldn’t have to rely on me to tell you things. What if I get it wrong? Or just decide to go play video games that day?

Image via Shutterstock.


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