Daily Briefs . . .

Snyder signs bill eliminating straight-party ticket ballot option

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed a law eliminating straight-party voting from ballots, saying the move puts “people over politics” and joins Michigan with 40 other states that no longer let voters support an entire ticket of one party's candidate with a single mark.

Now voters will only be able to vote for each office one by one.

“It’s time to choose people over politics,” the Republican said in a written statement. “To alleviate concerns that this change could lead to longer wait times for voters, I’m asking the Legislature to enact secured no-reason absentee voting.”

Democrats accused majority GOP lawmakers of seeking partisan gain, particularly in down-ballot races, by doing away with the convenient, popular straight-ticket option.

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

“This law will make it harder for people to vote in Michigan, and that’s just plain wrong,” said Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber, noting local clerks’ opposition. “It’s pretty clear that Governor Snyder and Lansing Republicans didn’t listen and don’t care.”

The law includes $5 million for additional voting booths and tabulators after clerks raised concerns that removing the option will cause longer lines. The allocation also makes the measure immune from a referendum. Voters twice before have preserved the straight-ticket option in referendums, in 2001 and 1964.

The straight-party voting option has been abolished by nine other states in the last 20 years, including nearby Wisconsin and Illinois.

The legislation won narrow, party-line approval in December after Senate Republicans uncoupled it from a House-passed bill favored by clerks that would have let voters cast an absentee ballot without having to meet specific criteria.

Federal prosecutors working  with EPA on Flint water probe

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say they’re working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on an investigation into problems with lead in Flint’s water supply.

U.S. Attorney’s spokeswoman Gina Balaya said in an email Tuesday that the investigation is “an effort to address the concerns of Flint residents.”

Balaya couldn’t say whether it is a criminal or civil investigation.

The city switched from Detroit’s water system to Flint River water in a cost-cutting move in 2014, while under state financial management.

Residents complained about the water’s taste, smell and appearance and children were found to have elevated levels of lead due to the water supply.

Last week, Gov. Rick Snyder apologized and Michigan’s top environmental regulator resigned.
Flint returned to Detroit’s water system in October.