When Gov. Snyder signed a bill banning straight-ticket voting in January, he set off howls from Democrats.
“It was completely partisan,” says county clerk Larry Kestenbaum. “It was pushed by the Republicans in the legislature, and it will give the advantage to the Republicans.” The effect, he believes, will be to limit the impact of “the blue-collar black or Hispanic Democrat who votes straight party and leaves. There are probably some corresponding Republicans, but not as many.”
Kestenbaum expects the law to reduce the Democratic vote in Wayne County, but doesn’t think it will change much locally. “Washtenaw County as a whole has a more active and progressive voter, and a lot of folks will vote down ballot,” agrees Brad O’Furey, campaign manager for many local Democrats. But O’Furey thinks it could change election outcomes “in the western Washtenaw state house district, with less voters voting in those races and less Democrats winning out there.”
Partisan calculation aside, O’Furey is torn about whether the change is good or bad for democracy. “I lean both ways. It is good because we’re allowing voters to vote on the merits and not on party lines, and the Founding Fathers warned against factions. But on the other hand, the country is a two-party system, and straight-party voting allows citizens to be partisan.
“The question is: are they [the Republicans] trying to promote democracy, or stack the deck in their favor?”