Judge rules citizenship checkbox off the ballot
A judge has ruled Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson must remove the citizen checkbox off ballot applications for the Nov. 6 election.
U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman ruled Friday that the boxes, which would require Michigan voters to check off that they are U.S. citizens on the paper applications they fill out before receiving the ballot, would be unnecessary and confusing.
“It is really a burden on the right to vote; in terms of slowing things down, in terms of confusion,” Borman said in a preliminary ruling.
A written decision is expected to be filed Tuesday.
Johnson said arguing after the hearing Friday she was disappointed.
“This is an education tool that we found that works,” Johnson told reporters after the hearing, arguing that the checkbox prevents those who had inadvertently registered to vote when obtaining government-issued identification such as a driver’s license.
The judge dismissed the need for a checkbox.
“If it’s so important, then why isn’t it on the absentee ballots?” Borman asked
A voting rights coalition consisting of the Service Employees International Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Ingham County clerk and others filed a suit against Johnson, arguing in court that the checkbox is an unnecessary roadblock to voting.
Plaintiff Glenn Rehahn argued the case on behalf of the coalition, using his experiences of being unable to exercise his voting rights because he would not show proof of citizenship, even though that was never in question.
“This is a big victory for voting rights in Michigan because voters won’t have to face the same barrier I did,” Rehahn said in a news release issued by the SEIU.
Johnson has been under fire from voting rights activists and Lansing politicians, including some in her own party, for attempting to put the citizenship checkbox on the Nov. 6 ballot applications and being successful in putting them on the August primary applications.
In July, Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a portion of a bill that would have made the citizenship question law.
Johnson ordered the question onto the August primary ballot applications anyway, resulting in confusion at polling places statewide about whether or not the box was required to be checked.
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