The Michigan Daily”s Nov. 13 editorial, “Informed voting” misrepresents the true effect eliminating straight-ticket voting in Michigan would have. The legislation referred to, Senate Bill 173, would end straight ticket voting on Michigan”s ballots, an option that allows voters to check one box to cast a vote for every candidate of one party. Michigan has had straight ticket voting for 110 years electing politicians of various political parties to office. Republican and Democratic country clerks the people charged with making Election Day run smoothly oppose this bill because it will cause voter confusion, congestion and longer lines at the polls. It will particularly harm the voting rights of senior voters and voters with physical disabilities, and hinder voters” rights to vote.

The Daily argues that straight ticket voting is bad because it “encourages uninformed voting.” While I agree with the Daily that informed voting advances democracy, it not a prerequisite for voting. Voting is a fundamental right, protected from tests of education or social status, literacy or knowledge of candidates. The only requirements for voting are citizenship and registration, and the vote of those who identify with party does not and should not carry any less weight than those who have the luxury to learn about each candidate.

The Daily also claims that it is unlikely that this change will significantly affect the outcome of an election. However, in Florida in 2000, straight ticket voting would have led to thousands of more votes in Seminole and Palm Beach counties for all candidates running. Also, the ACLU testified to congress last April that eliminating straight ticket voting in Illinois, combined with other voting procedures, effectively disenfranchised voters in minority communities. Moreover, the Daily”s claim that eliminating straight ticket voting is good because it will encourage voters to abstain from voting for candidates they don”t know about is ridiculous a vote based on party affiliation is certainly a more educated and more powerful statement than abstention.

Democracy doesn”t just work when voters are informed it works when voters vote. This is regressive legislation, legislation taking away voter choice.

It is an option that lets our citizens vote more quickly and efficiently and is no different than most European democracies in which people only vote for parties, and no individual candidates. Democracy doesn”t just work when people are educated it works when people have choices.

This bill has now passed the State Senate, and moves to the State House. I urge everyone to contact their State Representative, and to urge him or her to vote no on SB 173. You can find your State Representative on the State House Homepage: www.house.state.mi.us.

For decades, you could only vote if you owned property. For decades longer, only if you were white, and for over a century you could only vote if you were male. Only forty years ago African Americans in the South could only vote if they could pass literacy exams.

Do we really want to encourage people not to vote if they aren”t familiar with the candidates, even if they are familiar with the parties and what they stand for? Take a stand for promoting participation, and not exclusion from democracy. Take a stand against Senate Bill 173. Because democracy works when more people vote, when more people participate, and when more people care, and not when fewer vote.

Feldman, an LSA junior, is president of the College Democrats.

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