This week, a Michigan voting rights coalition filed a lawsuit against Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson for her dictum regarding voting and registration. The new ballots require voters to check a box in order to affirm that they are U.S. citizens before they are granted voting registration. The redundancy of this question has caused significant problems, so much so that one Shelby Township man who didn’t check the box was barred from voting in August. Several organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, have filed lawsuits against Johnson for violating the 14th Amendment. Michigan counties are decisively split, some refusing to use the new ballots while others have been implementing them. The state needs to create a uniform system that eradicates any misleading paths as citizens make their way to the polls.
The ACLU asserts that the erratic use of the checkboxes violates the 14th Amendment, which calls for uniformity in a state’s voting process. Because some counties are refusing to implement the question on their ballots, the system doesn’t reach all Michigan voters. Glenn Rehahn, a plaintiff in the case, was refused the chance to vote because he did not check the citizenship box, though he claims a county clerk told him that answering was optional.
Aside from legal repercussions, the U.S. citizenship checkbox has spurred debate as to whether or not it’s even necessary. Johnson stated that she wished to give non-citizens one final chance to refrain from voting and elude repercussions stemming from voting illegally. It’s common knowledge that in order to register to vote a person must provide proof of their U.S. citizenship. So while the checkbox question is valid, including it on the ballot seems unnecessary, redundant and confusing. There’s no reason to require a person who has already proved their citizenship in voter registration to affirm it again on the ballot. A recent study conducted by an investigative news team discovered that cases of voting fraud are miniscule. The organization, News21, analyzed more than 2,000 cases of reported fraud since 2000, finding that a mere 10 were actual incidents of “voter impersonation.”
Nov. 6 is fast approaching, yet the Michigan voting system is still divided. Due to this ballot mishap, some citizens may be deprived of their right to vote. The Michigan government needs to ensure that the difference in ballots doesn’t reflect a variance in statewide voting policy. Whether or not the citizen checkboxes are optional —and whether or not they remain on the ballot at all — should not be an issue this close to the election. It’s unthinkable to deny even one registered U.S. citizen the right to vote, and inexcusable to do so on a technicality. Johnson’s ballot has many faults — it’s misleading, affects Michigan citizens’ ability to vote and may be unconstitutional. Voting is a system created for citizens to voice their opinions and no one should have to fight to do so.