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One more reason Democrats think they can win the state House in November

Democrats in Michigan are breathing a sigh of relief now that the fight over straight-ticket voting in Michigan is over. For now, at least.

The U.S. Supreme Court torpedoed Republican efforts on Friday to deep-six a Democratic advantage in the Michigan election process.

Since 1891 the state has allowed voters with one mark on the ballot to select an entire slate of a party’s candidates. Typically, half of Michigan voters use the option, more of them Democrats than Republicans, and the GOP-led state Legislature and Governor Snyder tried to get rid of it earlier this year.

Democrats challenged the law, and Republicans have lost three times now in lower courts. But the Rs kept trying, as Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed appeal after appeal.

But, with the Supreme Court’s refusal to even take up the case, voters will be able to vote straight-ticket in November.

Now, we should point out, this fight isn’t over. Democrats won a series of preliminary legal decisions but they still have not drilled into the substantive arguments. This case is still active and waiting for final action by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

But if the court remains on the trajectory it’s followed we could still see Michigan Republicans’ efforts to ban straight-ticket voting as a case argued before the United States Supreme Court.

But, Democrats are certainly happy to take this win for now.

And, this is just one more thing that is making Democrats a little more hopeful that there’s a chance for them to win the state House from Republicans. In order to take-over majority, Dems need to flip nine seats; not an easy task.

But, along with the straight-party ticket win, Democrats are also hoping that a Clinton win in Michigan will help lower down on the ballot.

Michigan has gone blue in the past six presidential cycles because Democrats turn out to vote in presidential years. Not as much, though, in midterm elections, which is one very big reason why, although the state goes blue for president, we have a Republican governor, attorney general and secretary of state. And, the state Senate and state House.

So, with the straight-party ticket win, high Democratic turnout, and some somewhat competitive seats up for election in the state House there is a possibility that Democrats could take control of one legislative chamber. Something that hasn’t happened since Governor Snyder first took office. He has held the chief executive seat during six years of GOP hegemony in Lansing.

And a Democratic House majority could and would certainly change the final two years of the Snyder administration. The straight-ticket voting decision means a lot more votes for president will help decide who will serve as the next state House speaker.  

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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