- Associated Press - Friday, September 9, 2016

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan will remain, for now, among 10 states that allow voters to support an entire ticket of candidates from one party by marking a single box on their ballot.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined Friday to halt a lower judge’s preliminary injunction that blocked a Republican-backed ban from taking effect in November.

A look at the issue:

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WHAT IS STRAIGHT-PARTY VOTING?

The practice, which began in Michigan in 1891, lets people vote Democratic, Republican or another party in every partisan race on the ballot with a single mark. It is still allowed in Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Utah, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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HOW POPULAR IS IT?

Nearly half of the voters in Michigan’s bellwether, Oakland County in suburban Detroit, cast straight-party ballots in the 2014 general election. In adjacent Wayne County, home to Democratic-dominated Detroit, the straight-ticket mark was chosen on nearly 59 percent of ballots.

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WHY ABOLISH IT?

Gov. Rick Snyder and majority GOP lawmakers who banned the straight-ticket voting option in January say it is antiquated, prohibited in 40 other states and encourages ill-prepared voters to pick officeholders solely on party affiliation, not their qualifications.

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WHY KEEP IT?

The popular option is convenient and especially popular in cities with many black voters. Michigan’s ballot is longer than those in most states. Democrats say the longer ballot and a restrictive absentee-voting law already cause polling place waits that would be exacerbated without the straight-ticket box.

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WHO BENEFITS?

Republicans could benefit if the straight-ticket mark is eliminated because people may be less likely to vote for lesser-known, down-ballot offices such as the state Board of Education and university governing boards. Democrats still control those bodies despite the GOP holding the Legislature, governorship, attorney general and secretary of state’s offices.

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WHY WAS THE LAW HALTED?

After the former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party sued on behalf of residents and a labor-affiliated group, U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain issued a preliminary injunction against the law in July. He ruled the law would disproportionally hinder African-Americans and said its only purpose was “to require voters to spend more time filling more bubbles. … The idea that voting one’s party reflects ignorance or disengagement is, ironically, disconnected from reality. Voters may, and often do, have substantive reasons for voting only for members of certain political parties.”

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WHAT IS NEXT?

The lawsuit is not over. Though a three-judge 6th Circuit panel denied a request by Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to suspend the injunction, it this week expedited consideration of the underlying appeal. The state’s brief is due Sept. 16, the plaintiffs’ response Sept. 26. Separately, the district judge in Detroit will next schedule a trial on whether he should permanently stop the law from taking effect.

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HOW CLOSELY DIVIDED IS THE HIGH COURT?

Two justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, dissented and voted to halt the lower court decisions. The Supreme Court recently split 4-4 on reinstating North Carolina’s voter identification requirement. The court also is considering whether to delay a rollback to early voting in swing state Ohio. Democrats have asked the court to suspend a lower ruling that upheld a law eliminating days in which people can register and vote at the same time, a period known as “golden week.” The court has been operating with only eight members since Justice Antonin Scalia died in February.

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Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/author/david-eggert

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