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Michigan State A. Philip Randolph Institute v. Johnson

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 1, 2018

Michigan State A. Philip Randolph Institute, Mary Lansdown, Dion Williams and Common Cause, Plaintiffs,
v.
Ruth Johnson, in her official capacity as Michigan Secretary of State, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' REQUEST FOR PERMANENT INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

          GERSHWIN A. DRAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         United States District Court Judge Gershwin A. Drain United States Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub Opinion and Order Granting Plaintiffs' Request for Permanent Injunctive Relief

I. Introduction

         In early 2016, Michigan passed Senate Bill (“SB”) 13, which eliminated straight-ticket voting. 2015 Mich. Pub. Acts 268 (“PA 268”). Plaintiffs Michigan State A. Philip Randolph Institute, Common Cause, Mary Lansdown, Dion Williams, and Erin Comartin then sued Ruth Johnson, Michigan Secretary of State (“the Secretary”) in May 2016. See Dkt. No. 1. The Plaintiffs raised both constitutional and statutory claims. See id.

         This case proceeded to trial, where the Court heard opening statements and then examined the parties' briefs, along with the voluminous record.

         For the reasons detailed below, the Court will GRANT Plaintiffs' request for a permanent injunction on PA 268.

         The Court cautions that its holdings are specific to this litigation. The Court's only charge here is to assess the constitutionality and legality of PA 268 based on the election laws and the voting patterns of demographics, in Michigan, as they exist today. The Court appreciates the “vigilant respect” due to the separation of powers embodied in the Constitution. Ohio Democratic Party v. Husted, 834 F.3d 620, 623 (6th Cir. 2016). But “[f]ederal judicial remedies, of course, are necessary where a state law impermissibly infringes the fundamental right to vote.” Id. Such remedies are necessary in this case, as the Court will explain herein.

         A. History of Straight-Ticket Voting in Michigan

         By voting a straight-ticket (or straight-party) ballot, Michigan residents can vote for all the candidates of a given political party through shading in one oval, as opposed to voting for each candidate by shading in, say, eighteen ovals. Dkt. No. 146, p. 2 (Pg. ID 4380); see also Dkt. No. 1-15, p. 9 (Pg. ID 288). Michigan residents must also vote for nonpartisan offices and proposals, sometimes as many as thirty- seven nonpartisan offices and eighteen proposals. Dkt. No. 1-15, p. 9 (Pg. ID 288). The straight-party option only streamlines voting for partisan offices; Michigan residents must vote for each nonpartisan office and proposal individually.

         Since 1891, Michigan residents have had the option of straight-ticket voting. 1891 Mich. Pub. Acts. 190 § 14. In this 127-year span, Michigan legislators have tried to abolish the practice three times.

         Twice, Michigan voters defeated by referendum laws that would have eliminated straight-party voting: first in 1964 and second in 2001. See 1964 Mich. Pub. Acts. 240; 2001 Mich. Pub. Acts. 269. On both occasions, voters demonstrated an overwhelming preference for keeping straight-ticket voting. Michigan voters repealed 1964 PA 240 by a vote of approximately 66% (1, 515, 875) to 34% (795, 546). Dkt. No. 146, p. 2 (Pg. ID 4380). And they repealed 2001 PA 269 by a vote of roughly 60% (1, 775, 043) to 40% (1, 199, 236). Id. at p. 3 (Pg. ID 4381).

         The third attempt at eliminating straight-ticket voting occurred in December 2015, when the Michigan Legislature passed SB 13. Id. Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill into law on January 5, 2016 and it became effective immediately. Dkt. No. 102-8, pp. 2 (Pg. ID 2083). SB 13 was enrolled as PA 268. Id.; see also Dkt. No. 146, p. 3 (Pg. ID 4381). PA 268 includes a $5 million appropriation for “purchas[ing] voting equipment to implement the elimination of straight party ticket voting.”[1] PA 268, Sec. 795c. (2). This appropriation is for the purchase of voting booths, which can cost just $15. Dkt. No. 147, pp. 34-35 (Pg. ID 4449-50). The appropriation has additional significance: it prevents a referendum on PA 268-and referenda had undone previous laws eradicating straight-party voting. See Mich. United Conservation Clubs v. Sec'y of State, 630 N.W.2d 297, 298 (Mich. 2001).

         B. Procedural History

         Because of this litigation, PA 268 has yet to cover an election. On May 27, 2016, five months after PA 268 had become law, the Plaintiffs requested a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Secretary from implementing PA 268. Dkt. No. 4. In requesting the preliminary injunction, the Plaintiffs alleged that PA 268 violates the Equal Protection Clause and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”).[2] And on July 22, 2016, the Court granted Plaintiffs' request, finding that PA 268 likely violated the Equal Protection Clause and Section 2 of the VRA. See Johnson I, 209 F.Supp.3d 935; see also Dkt. No. 30.

         Then, on August 15, 2016, this Court denied the Secretary's motion to stay the preliminary injunction pending appeal. See Mich. State A. Philip Randolph Inst. v. Johnson, No. 16-cv-11844, 2016 WL 4267828 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 15, 2016). Two days later, the Sixth Circuit denied the Secretary's motion for a stay pending appeal of this Court's orders granting the Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. See Mich. State A. Philip Randolph Inst. v. Johnson, 833 F.3d 656 (6th Cir. 2016) (“Johnson II”).

         On October 16, 2017, the Secretary moved for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 102. As the Court denied the Secretary's motion, this case proceeded to trial.[3] See Mich. State A. Philip Randolph Inst. v. Johnson, No. 16-cv-11844, 2018 WL 493184, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 19, 2018) (“Johnson III”).

         C. Passage of SB 13

         Michigan State Senator Marty Knollenberg, a Republican, introduced SB 13 in January 2015. Dkt. No. 146, p. 5 (Pg. ID 4383). When Knollenberg introduced the bill, he did not have sufficient votes for its passage. Dkt. No. 137-4, pp. 6-7 (Pg. ID 3270-71). In seeking votes, he relied on others, including Ronna Romney McDaniel and Ronald Weiser. Id. McDaniel became chairperson of the Michigan Republican Party in February 2015, one month after Knollenberg introduced the bill. Dkt. No. 146, p. 5 (Pg. ID 4383). Weiser, on the other hand, held no public office or official role in the Republican Party during this period. Id. at p. 6 (Pg. ID 4384). But he was chairperson of the Michigan Republican Party from 2009 to 2011 and holds that position today. Id.

         Knollenberg explained his reliance on McDaniel, saying “I needed some help getting some votes and [McDaniel] knows people, so you know, she, I assume, went out and talked to folks. I don't know who, but I needed more votes. . . . And so, she was helping me get votes.” Dkt. No. 137-4, p. 6 (Pg. ID 3270). McDaniel helped Knollenberg obtain votes by, for example, connecting Knollenberg with Weiser. See Id. at pp. 19-20 (Pg. ID 3283-84).

         And Knollenberg kept McDaniel informed as to his communications with Weiser, as indicated by a March 2015 text message which Knollenberg sent to McDaniel. Id. According to Knollenberg, Weiser had confirmed that he was working to secure the Governor's support for SB 13, and that the Chair of the Michigan Senate Elections Committee, David Robertson, would support SB 13 if the Governor confirmed that he would sign the bill. Id. at p. 19 (Pg. ID 3283).

         Knollenberg continued to coordinate with Weiser in the following months. In May 2015, Weiser emailed Knollenberg asking for “a whip count, ” or in layman's terms, the No. of Michigan Senators who would support SB 13. Id. at p. 21 (Pg. ID 3285). Knollenberg replied “I will work on it ASAP.” Id.

         Beyond connecting Knollenberg with political operatives, McDaniel worked to pass SB 13 by seeking Republican lawmakers' support for the bill. For instance, she urged Robertson and Lisa Posthumus Lyons, then-Chair of the House Elections Committee, to support SB 13. Id. at p. 20 (Pg. ID 3284). McDaniel also told Knollenberg that she would speak with the Governor to secure his approval. Id. at pp. 19-20 (Pg. ID 3283-84).

         McDaniel vigorously supported SB 13 for two reasons: (1) she thought it would help the Republican Party win elections; and (2) she believed it was good policy. In her words: “I was party chair of Michigan, I wanted to win elections. I'm not going to say that I didn't think that this would help Republicans win elections, but I also think at the same time it's very good policy.” Dkt. No. 108-15, p. 7 (Pg. ID 2632). McDaniel found SB 13 beneficial for the Republican Party, as “if one party is using [straight-party voting] more than the other and they're just voting straight party, then it's hard for that candidate to break out.” Id. at p. 5 (Pg. ID 2630). Specifically, she felt that the abolition of straight-ticket voting would help “down-the-ticket” Republican candidates, e.g. candidates for school board elections. Id. at 4-6 (Pg. ID 2629-31). It would allow these candidates to “break out” by encouraging them to spend money and resources campaigning instead of depending on top-of-the-ticket candidates for their election, according to McDaniel. Id.

         She claimed her father was a “perfect example” of a Republican down-the-ticket candidate who would have benefited from SB 13. Id. at p. 6 (Pg. ID 2631). McDaniel said her father was “the top Republican vote getter” in 2008 for a seat on the Michigan State University Board of Trustees. Id. But, McDaniel lamented, “he lost statewide because every Republican lost statewide because Obama was a juggernaut.” Id. That is, McDaniel believed that many people voted a straight-ticket for the Democratic Party because of former President Barack Obama and “[that] impacted the ballot all the way down.” Id. From her perspective, SB 13 would prevent strong straight-ticket support of a Democratic Party presidential candidate from ruining down-the-ticket Republican candidates' chances for election. And in that way, McDaniel considered that the law would assist the Republican Party at the expense of the Democratic Party.

         Additionally, McDaniel considered SB 13 good policy. She said it would aid the public by encouraging voters to assess each candidate individually. Id. As summarized by the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency, McDaniel's theory supposes that, “[w]ithout the option of straight-ticket voting, people might be encouraged to educate themselves about the prospective office-holders, their qualifications, and what they stand for.” Dkt. No. 102-7, pp. 3-4 (Pg. ID 2079-80).

         McDaniel understood SB 13 as good policy despite her knowledge of concerns that it would increase wait times at voting precincts. Dkt. No. 108-15, p. 5 (Pg. ID 2630). In response to these concerns, “[she] assume[d] the legislature addressed those issues.” Id. Regardless, she said, “[any increase in wait times] was not, from a [Republican] [P]arty perspective, something in our jurisdiction.” Id.

         1. SB 13 in the Michigan Legislature and Governor's Office

         The Michigan Legislature resumed the official legislative process for SB 13 on November 10, 2015. Dkt. No. 146, p. 7 (Pg. ID 4385). Immediately, elections officials conveyed an unequivocal fear that PA 268 would make wait times not only much longer, but also unmanageable.

         On November 10, 2015, the Gaines Township Clerk, Crystal Osterink, emailed Lyons regarding SB 13.[4] Dkt. No. 137-3, pp. 29-30 (Pg. ID 3253-54). Osterink expressed a “grave concern” about the longer lines and wait times that SB 13 would cause. Id. at p. 29 (Pg. ID 3253). She complained that lines were already too long, predicting that even if straight-party voting were available in the then-forthcoming 2016 general election, wait times would be at least thirty minutes. Id. According to Osterink, “it would take a voter much, much longer to vote a ballot where each individual candidate (even within their party choice) had to be selected[.]” Id. She declared “I cannot imagine the lines, the complaints, the media attention (remember Grand Rapids several years ago) if people would have to wait in a longer line than they have been.” Id.

         Likewise, the Kent County Clerk, Mary Hollinrake, emailed Lyons on November 12, 2015 claiming that “[Michigan Senators] have NO idea what impact [SB 13] will have on election night.” Id. at p. 31 (Pg. ID 3255). Because of the high No. of proposed ballot measures, Hollinrake explained, voters would have to complete two ballots (each 18-22” long and 8-9¾” wide, allowing for three columns of positions and ballot proposals on both sides). Id.; see also Dkt. No. 56, p. 10 (Pg. ID 1101). The incredibly long ballots, combined with the elimination of straight-ticket voting, would result in “disaster” in certain areas, she proclaimed. Dkt. No. 137-3, p. 31 (Pg. ID 3255).

         Lyons shared Hollinrake's concern, as demonstrated by a text message she sent to Bill Zaagman on November 20, 2015. See Id. at p. 36 (Pg. ID 3260). Zaagman was a spokesperson and lobbyist for the Michigan Association of County Clerks and the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks. Id. In that November 2015 text, Lyons wrote “are you making sure all your clerks are telling house members that straight ticket elimination is a nightmare without secure [sic] no reason absentee voting?” Id.

         Zaagman himself was troubled by the anticipated impact of SB 13 on Michigan voters. In a draft distribution dated November 19, 2015, he encouraged clerks to pressure their state representatives to reject the bill, saying that “SB 13 will cripple [clerks'] precincts[.]” Dkt. No. 102-22, p. 2 (Pg. ID 2255). In addition, in proceedings in the House, both the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks and Michigan Association of County Clerks testified in opposition to SB 13. Dkt. No. 108-13, p. 6 (Pg. ID 2621).

         In contrast, only two clerks have backed the elimination of straight-party voting. See id.; Dkt. No. 141-14. The Elections Clerk of Calhoun County, Michigan, Anne Norlander, is the only clerk to have submitted an affidavit in this case supporting PA 268. Dkt. No. 141-14. She agrees with McDaniel that PA 268 will encourage voters to be “more informed” about candidates. Id. at p. 4 (Pg. ID 3983). She also asserts that the elimination of straight-party voting will motivate voters to prioritize candidates rather than political parties. Id. The only other clerk to have supported PA 268 is the clerk of Clinton Township in Macomb County. Dkt. No. 108-13, p. 6 (Pg. ID 2621). That clerk submitted a letter advocating for PA 268 during the House hearings. Id.

         2. Legislative Hearings

         On November 10, 2015, a Senate committee held an hour-long hearing on SB 13 and voted it out of the committee. Dkt. No. 146, p. 7 (Pg. ID 4385); see also Dkt. No. 108-12, p. 13 (Pg. ID 2613). The full Senate held a hearing on the bill that same day. Dkt. No. 146, p. 7 (Pg. ID 4385); see also Dkt. No. 108-12, p. 13 (Pg. ID 2613). In that hearing, several Senators criticized the appropriation for additional equipment, which at that time was set at $1 million. See Dkt. No. 108-12, p. 14 (Pg. ID 2614). Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. said “[t]his appropriation is a $1 million insurance policy against the will of the people. The only reason to add the appropriation to this bill is to go around the voters and make it referendum-proof.” Id. Then-Senator Steve Bieda likewise stated that “I find it really appalling that we have a provision in there for an appropriation to make it referendum-proof. We know why that is being done. You know why that is being done.” Id. “[T]he only reason to [enact SB 13] is a perceived partisan advantage, ” former Senator Bieda said. Id.

         Despite these statements, the full Senate passed SB 13 on November 10, 2015, and next sent it to the House. See Id. at p. 13 (Pg. ID 2613); Dkt. No. 146, p. 7 (Pg. ID 4385). The House Elections Committee evaluated the bill over two days, December 3rd and 8th of 2015. Dkt. No. 146, p. 10 (Pg. ID 4388). The first day included testimony from Senator Knollenberg, the bill's sponsor. Knollenberg explained his motivation for the bill, testifying that:

[t]o those in countries who don't have the right to vote, I assume how long it takes to vote isn't on their list of concerns. . . . It is time that Michigan's elections process becomes more about people, less about political parties, and even less about how long it takes to exercise one of our most fundamental rights.

Elections Hearings, Michigan House of Representatives Video Archive 20:39- No. 20:46, 20:55-21:05, (December 3, 2015), availableat http://house.mi.gov/MHRPublic/videoarchive.aspx.

         Knollenberg responded to clerks' anxiety about increased wait times and longer lines, first by testifying that the appropriation for voting equipment was intended to address those worries. Id. at 20:21 to 20:24. Second, he again dismissed concerns that PA 268 would generate impossibly long lines. He said “to those individuals [in third world countries] that can't vote, they just want to be able to vote, regardless of how long it takes to vote. In those countries where they've been able to vote for the first time, they'll wait all day.” Id. at 21:49 to 22:11.

         On the second day of testimony, the House Elections Committee voted SB 13 out to the full House. Dkt. No. 146, p. 10 (Pg. ID 4388); see also Dkt. No. 108-13, p. 2 (Pg. ID 2617). The full House passed the bill on the following day, December 9, 2015, and did so largely along party lines. Dkt. No. 146, p. 12 (Pg. ID 4390). All the House Democrats opposed SB 13, as did four Republicans. Id.

         Notably, in passing SB 13, the House tied it to a bill authorizing no-reason absentee voting, House Bill (“HB”) 4724. Id. The House imposed the tie-bar to alleviate congestion on Election Day. Id.; see also Dkt. No. 108-13, p. 5 (Pg. ID 2620). Lyons testified that many legislators in the House, including herself, had backed HB 4724 because it would have lessened the impact of longer lines and wait times caused by SB 13. Dkt. No. 137-3, p. 36 (Pg. ID 3260).

         McDaniel opposed no-reason absentee voting because the Republican Party was not prepared “to train and put people in the clerk's offices for the extended time period” for the purpose of “ensur[ing] the Integrity [sic] of the election.” Dkt. No. 140-2, p. 2 (Pg. ID 3414). Ensuring the integrity of the election, McDaniel explained, included poll challenges. Id.

         On December 16, 2015, the Senate received SB 13, now tied to HB 4724. Dkt. No. 146, p. 14 (Pg. ID 4392). The Senate severed the tie-bar, passed SB 13 standing alone, and sent it to the House for approval. Id. The House passed SB 13 on December 16, 2015, this time without HB 4724.

         The Governor signed SB 13 on January 5, 2016. See Dkt. No. 102-8. In signing the bill, he observed that, “[u]nder SB 13, Michigan joins 40 other states that require voters to select an individual for each elective office, rather than simply selecting a political party.” Id. at p. 2 (Pg. ID 2083). And he implored the Senate to pass HB 4724. Id. Citing evidence from the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Governor wrote that “Michigan is one of only 13 states that does not allow for some form of early or no-reason absentee voting.” Id. He stressed that “[u]pdating Michigan's archaic absentee voting law, and bringing Michigan in line with other states regarding early, or easier, access to the polls is critical[.]” Id.

         D. Election Laws in Michigan

         As suggested by Governor Snyder, Michigan has a unique voting regime. To begin, Michigan ballots include races for many positions beyond those for the federal or state legislature, including judicial seats and trustee positions on the boards of public universities. See Mich. Const. art. VI; id. art. VIII, § 5. Indeed, in the 2012 general election, Detroit voters assessed a total of seventy-nine offices and proposals on the ballot: eighteen partisan offices, forty-three nonpartisan offices, and eighteen proposals. Dkt. No. 1-15, p. 9 (Pg. ID 288). The November 2016 general election ballot was not quite as long. There, Detroit residents voted for at least fifty-five positions. See id.; see also Dkt. No. 102-17, p. 13 (Pg. ID 2172). That year's ballot included eighteen or nineteen partisan offices, thirty-seven judicial offices, and seven school board seats for selection out of sixty-two candidates. See Dkt. No. 1-15, p. 9 (Pg. ID 288); see also Dkt. No. 102-17, p. 13 (Pg. ID 2172); see also Dkt. No. 146, p. 16 (Pg. ID 4394).

         And except for a limited number of qualified residents, all Michigan voters must visit the polls on Election Day. Michigan does not permit early voting or no-reason absentee voting. See Mich. Comp. Laws § 168.758. A person can only vote absentee in Michigan if they meet one of the following narrow criteria:

(a) On account of physical disability, cannot without another's assistance attend the polls on the day of an election.
(b) On account of the tenets of his or her religion, cannot attend the polls on the day of election.
(c) Cannot attend the polls on the day of an election in the precinct in which he or she resides because of being an election precinct inspector in another precinct.
(d) Is 60 years of age or older.
(e) Is absent or expects to be absent from the township or city in which he or she resides during the entire period the polls are open for voting on the day of an election.
(f) Cannot attend the polls on election day because of being confined in jail awaiting arraignment or trial.

Id.

         Between its prohibition on early voting and restriction on absentee voting, Michigan has one of the most restrictive voting regimes in the country. Indeed, thirty-seven states allow early voting. Absentee and Early Voting, Nat'l Conference of State Legislatures (Aug. 17, 2017), http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-early-voting.aspx. Thus, only thirteen states do not allow voters to cast a ballot in-person prior to Election Day. And twenty-seven states permit no-reason absentee voting, whereas twenty states (including Michigan) require a justification. Id.

         Additionally, fourteen states recently eliminated straight-ticket voting.[5] Yet eleven of these fourteen states permit early voting. Id. Of these fourteen states, only Michigan, New Hampshire, and Missouri do not allow early voting. Id.

         Likewise, nine of these fourteen states have authorized no-reason absentee voting; only Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Texas, and West Virginia do not allow no-reason absentee voting. In sum, of the fourteen states that have recently eliminated straight-ticket voting, Michigan is one of only three states-along with Missouri and New Hampshire-to not have authorized both early voting and no-reason absentee voting. Michigan, on the other hand, is one of nine states to allow straight-ticket voting. Id.

         Although most Michigan voters must attend the polls on Election Day, Michigan law includes measures intended to alleviate congestion at the polls. For example, voting precincts can include no more than 2, 999 voters. See Mich. Comp. Laws § 168.661. Any precinct with more than 1, 000 voters must have at least one voting machine for every 600 active registered voters, and polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. See id.; see also Dkt. No. 147, p. 42 (Pg. ID 4457).

         These administrative measures have not stemmed long lines and wait times in Michigan, however. A 2012 national study concluded that Michigan voters had the sixth longest average wait time, which was almost twenty minutes. Dkt. No. 146, p. 18 (Pg. ID 4396); see also Dkt. No. 1-3, p. 44 (Pg. ID 78). A former chair of the House Elections Committee offered anecdotal support for that study, testifying that “sometimes you would hear of long line issues, even with straight-party voting.” Dkt. No. 137-3, p. 14 (Pg. ID 3238).

         Because of its narrow exception for qualified absentee voters, its decision not to authorize early voting, and its extremely long ballots, Michigan has a restrictive voting scheme.

         II. Findings of Fact

         A. Impact of PA 268 on Michigan Voters

         In the context of Michigan's particular election laws, the Court finds that PA 268 will increase wait times for all Michigan voters. It is self-evident that shading in eighteen ovals will take much longer than shading in one oval. But through election officials' testimony and affidavits, and expert reports, Plaintiffs have proven that PA 268 will introduce significantly greater wait times and dramatically longer lines.

         Indeed, as detailed above, almost every elections clerk who has commented on PA 268 has concluded that the law will have these effects. And other elections officials share elections clerks' concerns. For instance, Christopher Thomas held those views, and he was the Director of the Michigan Bureau of Elections for thirty-six years. Thomas, in conjunction with Bureau of Elections staff, estimated that it takes three minutes longer to shade in an oval for each individual partisan candidate than to shade in one oval. Dkt. No. 141-19, p. 2 (Pg. ID 4049). An additional three minutes for each straight-ticket voter would drastically increase voting times: 1.5 to 2.5 million Michigan residents voted a straight-ticket in the 2016 general election. Dkt. No. 108-13, p. 7 (Pg. ID 2622).

         Like Thomas, Joseph Rozell, the Director of Elections in Oakland County, noted that voting with a straight-ticket is “easier and faster” than voting for each candidate individually. Dkt. No. 1-15, pp. 2-3 (Pg. ID 281-82). Daniel Baxter, the Director of Elections in Detroit, and Chris Swope, the Lansing City Clerk, agreed with Rozell's assessment. Id. at p. 8, 16 (Pg. ID 287, 295). The lay evidence here, then, strongly indicates that PA 268 will generate significantly longer lines and wait times.

         In addition, particularly convincing are the conclusions and testimony offered by Plaintiffs' expert Theodore Allen, an associate professor of Industrial Engineering at Ohio State University. Dkt. No. 108-4, p. 3 (Pg. ID 2490). Allen analyzed voting patterns during the 2016 presidential election at thirty-one precincts in Michigan, precincts which Plaintiffs' demography expert, Kurt Metzger, identified as representative of Michigan as a whole.[6] Id.; Dkt. No. 141-8, p. 36 (Pg. ID 3712). Allen examined data compiled by volunteers who observed the polls at these thirty-one precincts. Dkt. No. 141-8, pp. 34-38 (Pg. ID 3710-14). Of the thirty-one precincts, African-Americans outnumbered other demographics in only five precincts, but were not a majority in any of these precincts. Dkt. No. 108-4, pp. 6, 8 (Pg. ID 2493, 2495). These five precincts were in either Detroit, Flint, or Saginaw. Id.

         Allen simulated the amount of time it would take for people to vote with or without a straight-party option. Id. at p. 8 (Pg. ID 2495). To create this simulation, he altered the data in two important ways. Id. at p. 11 (Pg. ID 2498). First, in seven precincts he added voting booths to account for additional resources, like desks, which enabled voting but were not voting booths. Id. at p. 6 (Pg. ID 2493); see also Dkt. No. 141-8, pp. 41-42 (Pg. ID 3717-18). Second, he subtracted the number of voting booths observed at certain polling places to identify only those booths used in a particular precinct. Dkt. No. 108-4, p. 6 (Pg. ID 2493); see also Dkt. No. 141-8, pp. 41-42 (Pg. ID 3717-18). Allen made this adjustment because some polling places encompassed several precincts, and the data reflected the number of voting booths at only the location level. No. 108-4, p. 6 (Pg. ID 2493); see also Dkt. No. 141-8, pp. 41-42 (Pg. ID 3717-18).

         Finally, according to Allen, there are three components to voting: registration, voting booths, and tabulators, where voters scan ballots. Dkt. No. 108-4, p. 9 (Pg. ID 2496). And one of the three stages of voting often serves as the principal cause of wait times, or “bottleneck.” Id. He contends that the voting booth is most frequently the bottleneck. Id. Consequently, Allen omitted the other voting stages from the simulation and stated that this change did not affect the results. Id.

         Based on this data, Allen reached several important conclusions. He found that the eradication of straight-ticket voting would increase wait times by 25% or more for every voter who previously voted a straight-ticket. Id. at p. 10 (Pg. ID 2497). As an example of the time saved with straight-party voting, he noted that Flint residents waited an average of fifty-two minutes to vote and had a ballot comprised of fifteen partisan races, twelve nonpartisan races, and nine proposals. Id. Allen then determined that PA 268 might increase wait times by more than 33%, as illustrated by this Flint example. Id.

         Because Allen was able to both evaluate a representative sample of Michigan voting precincts and create a simulation based on that representative sample, the Court finds that his conclusions are persuasive. Indeed, Allen's findings likely reflect the impact of PA 268, given the high number of partisan elections on Michigan ballots, which Michigan voters would have to shade in individually with the implementation of PA 268.

         The Secretary contends that PA 268 will not increase waiting times and, in making this argument, she largely relies upon expert reports authored by Stephen Graves and Paul Herrnson. The Court will give these expert reports some weight, but will ultimately conclude that the balance of the evidence weighs in favor of the Plaintiffs. First, the Secretary's expert Stephen Graves is a Professor of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and he specializes in the disciplines of operations management, supply chain management, and manufacturing systems. Dkt. No. 102-5, p. 2 (Pg. ID 1933). Graves's analysis is credible, although not particularly persuasive.

         Graves agrees with Allen that there are three processes relevant to voting. Id. at p. 6 (Pg. ID 1937). Unlike Allen, Graves determined that waiting times in Michigan were almost solely caused by bottlenecks at registration. Id. at p. 5 (Pg. ID 1936). In other words, he believes that Allen's data shows that voting booths were generally available when voters were ready to use them. Therefore, in Graves's estimation, any increase in time spent in voting booths because of PA 268 would not increase voting wait times overall.

         Graves also attacked Allen's methods. He supposed that Allen arbitrarily reduced the number of voting booths at the three most congested precincts (Saginaw, Flint, and one in Detroit), which were precincts where African-American voters outnumbered other demographics. Id. at pp. 15-16 (Pg. ID 1946-47); see also Dkt. No. 108-4, pp. 6-7 (Pg. ID 2493-94).

         Graves's first finding warrants some weight, as Allen concedes that bottlenecks occur at voting registration, not just at voting booths. Yet it is unlikely that backups at registration are the sole cause of all the delay at voting precincts throughout Michigan-delay which amounts to the sixth longest wait time in the country. See Dkt. No. 1-3, p. 44 (Pg. ID 78).

         Even assuming that Graves is correct that voters only wait at registration, this will change under PA 268. Allen concludes that the eradication of straight-ticket voting will cause straight-ticket voters-1.5 to 2.5 million Michigan residents-to use 25% more time in voting booths. PA 268, then, will significantly impact the amount of time it takes for a large number of residents to vote. Accordingly, voting booths will not be as readily available with PA 268 as Graves contends that they are today.

         Finally, Graves convincingly undermines Allen's data by highlighting that Allen may have eliminated booths in certain precincts in an imprecise manner. The Court finds Graves's contention persuasive given that the volunteers Allen relied on misunderstood whether a location consisted of multiple precincts or just one precinct. This misunderstanding forced Allen to reconstruct precincts from the available data. Allen may have successfully reconstructed these precincts, of course. The Court concludes, however, that this adjustment reduces the likelihood that Allen has evaluated precisely accurate data. Consequently, Graves's report and testimony undercut some of the Plaintiffs' evidence.

         In contrast, the findings and methods of Paul Herrnson, a professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut, are unsound and lack credibility. Dkt. No. 102-6, p. 3 (Pg. ID 1984). Herrnson determined that the elimination of straight-party voting will not increase voter wait times because “the straight-party option has been shown to lead to greater confusion, increased voter errors, and more individuals feeling the need for assistance during the voting process.” Id. He attests that these issues are particularly pronounced for African-American voters “with low literacy levels and other characteristics associated with traditionally underrepresented groups.” Id.

         Herrnson concedes that shading in one oval takes less time than shading in eighteen ovals, but he argues that voting consists of more than simply shading in ovals. Id. at p. 12-13 (Pg. ID 1993-94). According to Herrnson, straight-ticket voting in Michigan is confusing because ballots do not include instructions about how to override a straight-ticket vote. Id. at p. 14 (Pg. ID 1995). He determined that a study of voters from Maryland, Michigan, and New York revealed that voters reported higher satisfaction with a ballot where they voted for each candidate individually, as contrasted with a ballot having the straight-party option. Id. at p. 28-29 (Pg. ID 2009-2010). Herrnson claims that these participants, when completing a straight-ticket ballot, asked for help more frequently than when they were completing a ballot which allowed them to vote for each candidate individually. Id. at p. 29 (Pg. ID 2010). And, according to Herrnson, this confusion leads to more voters asking for assistance than would be the case without straight-ticket voting. Id. at p. 18 (Pg. ID 1999).

         Herrnson's determinations include several analytical gaps which the Court is unwilling to overlook. The first, and most alarming, is that straight-ticket voting is confusing to so many Michigan voters that its elimination will expedite the voting process. For 127 years, Michigan ballots have included a straight-party option. And in the 2016 election, almost half (49.2%) of Michigan voters used the straight-party option. Dkt. No. 108-2, p. 9 (Pg. ID 2402). Thus, the Court strains to comprehend how the mechanics of straight-party voting might confuse Michigan voters generally.

         What is more, Herrnson reached this conclusion in reliance on a study of voters from Maryland, New York, and Michigan. Maryland and New York do not have straight-party voting. Herrnson, then, bases his findings on a study which includes voters who probably have no prior experience with a straight-party ballot.

         Third, Herrnson's analysis requires that the Court agree that straight-party voting not only confuses Michigan voters, but also that this confusion compels so many voters to ask for assistance as to negate the three minute increase in voting time that PA 268 would introduce for 1.5 to 2.5 million voters. This is inconceivable. The Court doubts that PA 268 is confusing to Michigan voters generally, and there is no evidence regarding how many Michigan voters request assistance or how much time this assistance ordinarily entails. The Court, therefore, will not place any weight on Herrnson's examination of the impact of PA 268 on voter wait times.

         Additionally, the Court recognizes that PA 268 includes an appropriation for voting equipment. But aside from asserting that voting booths are inexpensive, the Secretary offers no evidence regarding how this appropriation will specifically reduce wait times. Evidence, for example, describing how many voting booths or other equipment might be purchased and used in certain areas. In any event, that evidence would not have saved the Secretary's argument. The Plaintiffs rightly contend that voting precincts can accommodate only so many additional booths. See Dkt. No. 1-15, p. 6 (Pg. ID 285). Consequently, additional voting booths, standing alone, will not quell the congestion that PA 268 would create in voting precincts.

         The parties vigorously debate whether PA 268 causes longer lines and wait times. Given the overwhelming number of elections officials who determined that PA 268 will cause drastically longer wait times and the relative strength of Plaintiffs' expert evidence, the Court finds that the Plaintiffs have shown that PA 268 will cause significantly longer lines and wait times.

         B. Effect of PA 268 on African-American Voters

         The Court further concludes that African-Americans will disproportionally suffer increased wait times. African-Americans vote a straight-party at vastly higher rates than whites. The Plaintiffs demonstrate this fact through research by Kurt Metzger, Regional Information Specialist with the United States Census Bureau for thirty-seven years. Dkt. No. 108-2, at p. 3 (Pg. ID 2396). Metzger studied 2012 to 2016 election data from Michigan. Id. at p. 2 (Pg. ID 2395). For 2016, he studied all eighty-three Michigan counties; for 2014, sixty-nine counties; and for 2012, sixty-one counties.[7] Id. at pp. 6-7 (Pg. ID 2399-2400). To identify the racial composition of a given area, he relied on 2010 census data. Id. at p. 6 (Pg. ID 2399). Because precinct boundaries changed frequently between 2010 and 2016, Metzger analyzed the prevalence of straight-ticket voting among communities, which is a larger collection of voters than precincts. Id. at p. 7 (Pg. ID 2400). Based on his analysis, there were 1, 522 communities in Michigan in 2016. Id. at p. 10 (Pg. ID 2403).

         After aggregating and examining this data, Metzger found that “it is quite clear that African Americans are more likely to use the straight party voting option and will be disproportionately affected by its elimination.” Id. at p. 2 (Pg. ID 2395). He observed that 49.2% of all Michigan voters used the straight-party option in the 2016 general election. Id. at pp. 9-10 (Pg. ID 2402-03). But in communities where African-Americans constituted less than 40% of the voting age population, only 46.5% of voters used the straight-ticket option. Id. at p. 9 (Pg. ID 2402).

         Yet straight-ticket voting rates were much higher in communities where African-Americans constituted a substantial percentage of the voting age population. For example, in the twelve communities where African-Americans were the majority demographic, 77.7% of voters used the straight-party option. Id. 68.9% of voters used the straight-ticket option in the seven communities where African-Americans were 40 to 49.9% of the voting age population. Id. This evidence shows that if a Michigan community has a high percentage of voting age African-Americans, that community's voters use the straight-ticket option at a high rate.

         In addition, the evidence shows that African-Americans are using straight-ticket voting in high rates for the Democratic Party. In communities where African-Americans constituted at least 40% of the voting age population, 94.8% of straight-ticket votes were submitted for the Democratic Party. Id. at p. 25 (Pg. ID 2418). The Republican Party, however, garnered 53.3% of straight-ticket votes in communities where African-Americans were less than 40% of the voting age population. Id.

         The analysis of the Secretary's expert Laurence S. Rosen Ph.D., does not shed doubt on Metzger's findings. Rosen has been a demographer and research professional for over forty years and, in 1980, was selected as Michigan's first state demographer. Dkt. No. 102-3, pp. 4-6 (Pg. ID 1833-35). Based on his review of Metzger's data and conclusions, Rosen found a “weak level of association between race and straight-ticket voting across the state.” Id. at p. 15 (Pg. ID 1844). He claims that straight-ticket voting is popular in both communities that have many African-Americans and communities with few or no African-Americans. Id. at p. 16 (Pg. ID 1845).

         He notes, for instance, that in several communities in Ottawa County, African-Americans make up no more than 1% of the population. Id. at pp. 19-20 (Pg. ID 1848-49). Yet 56% to 64% of voters in those communities utilized the straight-party option. Id. He also highlights that Ottawa County had a 54.7% straight-ticket voting rate, and only 1.4% of its voting age population was African-American. Id. at p. 22 (Pg. 1851).

         Likewise, Rosen observes that Allegan County, Livingston County, and Washtenaw County have few African-American residents, but these counties' residents voted a straight-party at rates between 45.8% and 50.9%. Id. Thus, according to Rosen, race is not driving the high straight-ticket voting rates demonstrated by Metzger. Id. at p. 16 (Pg. ID 1845). Rather, Rosen believes that other factors better explain the variation in straight-ticket voting rates. Id.

         Rosen's findings, however, are unconvincing when contrasted with Plaintiffs' evidence that every community with a high percentage of African-Americans of voting age has an exceptionally high straight-ticket voting rate. Dkt. No. 108-2, p. 9 (Pg. ID 2402). Indeed, the voting rates in communities with high percentages of African-Americans of voting age dwarf those of the small number of communities identified by the Secretary as having high straight-party voting rates and low African-American populations. In addition, the straight-party voting rate of communities with a high percentage of African-Americans of voting age far exceeds the statewide rate of straight-party voting. Therefore, it is of no moment that a few, discrete communities have high rates of straight-party voting, despite having a low or non-existent African-American voting age population.

         1. Lower Levels of Literacy and PA 268

         Plaintiffs have also offered forceful evidence that African-Americans in Michigan have lower levels of literacy than whites. Plaintiffs have also shown that, as a result of these lower levels of literacy, PA 268 will disproportionately cause African-Americans to (1) take more time than whites in completing ballots; and to (2) abandon their ballots at higher rates than whites out of frustration or lack of ability. In support of these contentions, Plaintiffs present an expert report by Daphne Ntiri, an African-American studies Professor at Wayne State University. Dkt. No. 108-5, p. 2 (Pg. ID 2511). She specializes in adult education and literacy. Id.

         Ntiri has determined that African-Americans have, on average, lower levels of literacy than whites. Id. at pp. 4-5 (Pg. ID 2513-14). She has reached this finding partly based on evidence that “there is clearly a direct correlation between the rate of illiteracy in Michigan cities and the size of the African American population [in Michigan cities].” Id. at p. 14 (Pg. ID 2523). Ntiri additionally relies on a United States Census Bureau study regarding educational attainment in Michigan. Id. at p. 13 (Pg. ID 2522). The Census Bureau study covers 2011 to 2015, and reflects that in Michigan African-Americans were less likely ...


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