Parties at odds over Michigan ballot citizenship question

Published On: Sep 14 2012 07:59:02 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 17 2012 01:12:59 PM EDT

Voters are ordered to prove their U.S. citizenship before taking part in the November election. But will officials follow the order?


The first document a voter sees when he or she arrives at a polling place is the voter application.

Voters sign their name and give their address. Now, Republicans and Democrats are arguing over whether a voter should be asked if they are a U.S. citizen.

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is telling local clerks to use a voter application which asks the citizenship question. However, Joceyln Benson, of the Michigan Center for Election law, says the language caused problems in the August primary.

"All this does is confuse eligible voters about the requirements. We've had people say, 'I thought it asked if I was a senior citizen," Benson said.

Macomb County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh is refusing to send Johnson's version of the ballot applications to local clerks. Two months ago, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a bill requiring the citizenship question.

Johnson has been out of the country. Her spokesman said the citizenship question helps remind non citizens to realize they cannot vote, If they did, it would be a felony.

"This is a common sense, easy question to verify one of the requirements to vote," the spokesperson said.

Sabaugh says the people are already asked the citizenship question when they register to vote.

Johnson is a Republican. Sabaugh and Benson are both Democrats who ran for the secretary of state position.

"I do believe legal action is imminent and we'll see if the courts can stop the Secretary of State from acting illegally," said Sabaugh.

Johnson says local clerks, not county clerks, determine the correct application form. Unless a judge intervenes, it is likely that some voters will be asked the question while others will not.


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