Thursday, February 21, 2013

A GOP attack on straight-ticket voting?

We're a bit torn about a bill filed this month that would eliminate straight-ticket voting in North Carolina.

It comes from the party that has spent the past few years finding new and creative ways to keep its opponents' supporters from voting. In states across the country, Republicans have legislated limits on early voting and passed voter ID laws that attack a voter fraud problem that research shows doesn't exist at polling places.

Let's not forget the Republicans in four battleground states - Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania - who recently proposed changing how Electoral College votes are counted in their states. President Obama won each of those four last November; the proposed splitting of electoral votes by congressional district would likely favor future Republican presidential candidates.

So it's not a surprise that N.C. Republicans might turn their attention to straight-ticket voting. In the 2012 general election, about 300,000 more N.C. Democrats than Republicans chose the straight-party option. Remember, in North Carolina, voters who choose the straight ticket option still have to push an extra button to cast a presidential vote, but statewide offices are included in a straight-ticket vote. Some think that Democratic straight-ticket votes in Mecklenburg helped defeat Pat McCrory's bid for governor in 2008.

The short-and-sweet N.C. bill, introduced by Republican Sens. Thom Goolsby and Buck Newton, would eliminate the straight-party option. Voters could still fill their ballots with votes for Democrats, but they couldn't do it with one punch of a button.

And that is, whatever the intention behind it, a good idea.

Straight-ticket voting is a testament to electoral laziness. It was conceived and supported by legislators who think it's in their best interest to ride on the coattails of their party. It gives voters the opportunity to cast ballots without having to burden themselves with thinking about individual candidates and races.

It also results in embarrassments like Alvin Greene. Remember him? He was an unknown Democrat  who became the Democratic Party's nominee in the 2010 U.S. Senate race in South Carolina. It was bad enough that South Carolina Democrats awarded him a primary victory without knowing anything about him, but by the general election, most everyone had learned that Greene was unemployed, had been kicked out of the military, and faced federal obscenity charges. He still managed to receive 365,000 votes in losing to Republican Jim DeMint - but only 37,000 of those voters actually punched the button next to his name. The other 328,000 votes came from voters choosing a Democratic straight-ticket option.

Currently, 15 states offer a straight-party option to voters - down from more than 20 a couple decades ago. Yes, killing the straight ticket might result in longer lines at the polls, but it will at least nudge us closer toward what voting should be - looking at a ballot and deciding which person better represents you.

Peter St. Onge    


Ghoul said...

Hey Pete, did you see where an Ohio poll worker voted 6 times for Obama? Nope, no voter fraud exists.

jon golden said...

Hey Ghoul: Did you see where the President's brother used his influence to steal the 2000 election in Florida? voter fraud there, either.

Ghoul said...

jon g,

You mean the election that was proven true by, the bastions of conservatism, the New York Times and Newsweek? Or was it another one?

Jonathan said...

I think it's pretty asinine to think that most people really look into their electoral choices. I guarantee you that over 50% of people vote straight ticket, whether there is an option for it or not. Politics in the US is very tribal.

It's also pretty obvious why the GOP is doing this, so I see no reason to embolden them by saying "but oh! It's the right thing to do - make people think!" Who's to say they haven't already thought about it and decided that GOP candidates don't represent their interests, no matter their name? Or that Democratic candidates don't represent their interest?

It's insulting to suggest that people who vote straight ticket don't know who they're voting for every time they vote.

The Observer Editorial Board said...

Hey Ghoul,

Would voter ID have nabbed the Ohio poll worker? No. The Secretary of State there says she used her position to do it.

Voter ID also doesn't address the real fraud problem - with registration fraud and absentee ballot abuse. But Republicans aren't introducing legislation to tackle those.


whitehawk said...

Don't agree with editorial boards as a rule; however, I'm in complete agreement with this opinion. This from one who would never be stupid enough to vote a straight ticket for any party.ISeenh 58

One Discerner said...

What a crock. There is nothing wrong with straight ticket voting or voting period. The real problem is political party with sorry ideas that is so intent on rigging elections. The real solution would be for them to change their sorry ideas or more accurately, change their evil ways and then people with good sense may actually vote for them. Voter suppression by any name is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Unknown said...

Generalizations are at times incorrect but they come from some form of truth. You can definitely argue that strait ticket voters for the most part are not as politically educated or involved because party lines definitely dont always indicate the ideals of a the candidate. The issue of eliminating straight ticket is a non issue in my book. Why not require a voter to think about each candidate individually on a process as important as this?

The same goes for requiring ID. Any other process this country considers important, you more than likely will need ID. Opening bank accounts, driving cars, applying for jobs, all require form of ID. Voting should be no different. And please note I am a Democrat.

Reggie Mantle said...

but banning straight ticket voting would require that voters know how to read.

That's discrimination!

The Observer Editorial Board said...


As always, debating is fine. Namecalling isn't. Keep it civil.


BleedCrimson&White '98 said...


I am a voter that never voted straight ticket- until the last 8 to 10 years. It isn't that I am lazy and it isn't that I don't know the issues, the players and the psychology of the other voters and the politicians around me. As a matter of fact the one time in these 8 to 10 years that I didn't vote straight ticket- and I normally don't push the straight ticket button when I do it- has been to try and stop Nick Mackey from being my state representative. I knew exactly who I was voting for and it is insulting to say that I didn't as the times have pushed us into a situation as voters of choosing a party versus a candidate these days.

I also agree that to say this is the right thing knowing what foul intention is motivating the act- wouldn't it be nice if the GOP were as focused on trying to propose REAL solutions to the current problems we face as they are trying to see if they can, as a party, win the next election- is inappropriate here. As my mom always says, two wrongs don't make a right.

Jim said...

Straight party voting is not laziness. I've read the GOP platform and I know I could never, ever vote for someone associated with it and have a clean conscience. The purpose of eliminating straight party voting is to make voters spend more time in the voting booth, thereby making lines longer at understaffed urban voting locations. Yet another sneaky attempt at voter suppression - the only hope the GOP have of EVER getting back in the White House.

Ghoul said...


There is no such thing an an understaffed location. All voting locations have the same staff, and all districts are drawn to have approximately the same amount of voters in them.

Where I vote, there must be 6 or eight people who sit around and do nothing. These people are paid to do this, its not volunteers.


Voter ID would have certainly stopped the Ohio fraud, because when the Absentee Ballot is sent out, it would be recorded on the voter roll, and when she tried to vote in the polling place, it would show she already voted.

Peter St. Onge said...

Bleed Crimson and Jim,

No, not all straight-ticket voting is laziness, but the option gives people the opportunity to be lazy.

Ghoul: She was a poll worker. Voter ID wouldn't have made a difference.


Unknown said...

Jess Jackson Jr approves of straight party voting. Why else would lazy voters elect a mentally unstable, felon?