Life

It’s Time to Outlaw Straight-Ticket Voting

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I took advantage of the opportunity to vote early during last week and I saw a reminder of a voting pet peeve: straight-ticket voting.

Straight-ticket voting allows a voter to walk into a voting booth, press one button, and thereby cast ballots for multiple candidates in multiple offices. It has been around for a long time but some states are working to remove the option.

I think it should be universally outlawed. I’ve always been a middle-of-the-road voter. I’ve never once used straight-ticket voting — otherwise known as straight-party voting. I could have, during my entire voting life, pressed one button to select every Republican candidate or another button to select every Democratic candidate.

If I were an advocate of a third party, I’d be out of luck. That’s one reason lawmakers should outlaw the option. It assumes you must be either one or the other, as if you’re not so interested in issues as winning a football game. But if you’re, say, a Libertarian, there’s no option to select every Libertarian candidate with one button. If you support the Green Party, you can’t press a Green Party straight-ticket button, either. So it gives an unfair advantage to the two major political parties and disadvantages others. Somehow, though I’ve never voted for a member of either of the aforementioned third parties (so far), that still doesn’t seem very American to me.

My biggest gripe rests solely on one simple idea: Shades of gray

In this case, since we like to symbolize Republicans as red and Democrats as blue, I probably should say shades of purple.

As a voter, I believe it’s my responsibility to select the right person — not necessarily the right man — for the job. But that means looking at the responsibilities of that job and the individual candidates to see which one best matches my priorities.

Sometimes, that’s the Republican candidate. Sometimes, that’s the Democratic candidate. At some point, it might even be a third-party candidate. I wouldn’t ever rule out that possibility.

There have been some candidates who I respected and who I felt put their district ahead of themselves. There have been a rare few who have earned my respect not out of fiery rhetoric but actual action. My support sprang out of their commitment to working together to get things done, not being divisive to elicit cheers and campaign donations.

Yes, it’s harder and harder to find people like that these days.

But there are a handful of candidates who will almost certainly have my vote. Some have been red and some have been blue. If I were to sit down and make a list, I suspect there’d be a few more Republicans on that list than Democrats.

However, it’s only reasonable to note that I didn’t agree with everything that any of those candidates believed or fought for. The more I know about an issue — the more I educate myself about an issue — the less I agree completely with either side.

I don’t believe one side has all of the answers. If one side did, there’d be no need for another side. Ever.

Straight-ticket voting, however, relies on that belief, which is foolhardy at best. No ballot I’ve ever submitted was either all red or all blue. It had a mix of both. It averaged purple…and I think that’s a good thing.

‘But split-ticket voting takes more time.’

For those of us who take the time to consider the right person for the right job, the opposite of straight-ticket voting is split-ticket voting. That means we have to go page by page on our trusty little computerized voting machine and select the candidate(s) we want office by office.

Oh the horror!

Yes, it takes more time. It takes more attention. I’m truly, truly sorry if I’m the first to suggest that life is not always fair.

But let’s be realistic for a second. You’re not ordering toppings on a sandwich for lunch. You’re making decisions to affect the future of our country.

I’m sorry, but that’s worth a few extra moments of your time. Seriously, if you can’t see that, maybe you’re the problem. If you can’t see that someone outside of the party to which you most associate might actually have good ideas, you’re definitely part of the problem.

It’s people like you who actually make getting things done more difficult because you want everything your way and your way only. Some of us — perhaps those with a bit more wisdom — realize that compromise is an important part of life.

Our nation depends upon it. Our future depends on it. No one side will always get its way 100%. That’s not how it works. It’s not how any of this ever works. When one side does get more than its fair share of items on its wish list, it’s only a matter of time before the other side stacks the deck to get its way back. I give you the overturning of Roe v. Wade as proof.

The candidate should be more important than the party.

There have been cases in which I might lean more right or more left on an issue, but an absolutely against the person running on that side’s ticket. But there have been times I voted against an individual candidate who I felt lacked the integrity, honesty, dedication, decorum or professionalism (or any combination thereof) to serve.

I can think of one race in which the candidate I would vote for has distorted the other candidate’s position on an issue. The candidate who has released dishonest, dishonorable political ads might otherwise have my vote. But I’ll not reward irresponsibility and blatant falsehoods with my vote. That’s not to say the other side hasn’t produced falsehoods as well. I don’t think either side in any race runs a 100% straightforward campaign anymore. As a society, we seem willing to tolerate this. But as a voter, I’ll not reward the most blatant liar with my vote. If the candidate doesn’t care about showing integrity, that’s the candidate’s problem. I’ll walk out of voting booth knowing I maintained mine.

Sometimes, I’ll like most of what a candidate says on a variety of issues. I might lean toward that person. Then I learn I agree with the other candidate on the most important issue in that particular race. In those cases, party-be-damned, I’ll vote for the one who most matches my beliefs on the issues I’m most concerned about.

I make no apologies to either side for doing so. I call that being a responsible voter. You get to be one with time spent looking at issues and candidate statements on them. You can call yourself a responsible voter when you spend far more time listening than talking.

Few these days, it seems, are willing to invest that kind of time.

Would removing straight-ticket voting discourage ‘lazy’ voters?

I recognize that may be a concern for some. But I don’t consider that a legitimate fear. Anyone who can’t take the time to look at the candidates — who are clearly labeled by party — and pick them one by one rather than taking a “shortcut” have no business going to the voting booth to begin with.

Removing straight-ticket voting, as some states has already done, doesn’t keep anyone from voting for their preferred candidate. Indeed, it challenges the voters to be more intentional about doing precisely that.

If someone wants to go through the ballot and pick only candidates from one party every single time, they’re free to do so. But at the very least, they will have looked at each race individually to make that choice.

If they can’t invest any more time than that, maybe they shouldn’t deserve the right to vote.

America, your state, your county and your community are more important than any political party, no matter how committed you may be to the one you align with.

If you can’t see that, it’s time for some soul searching.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

2 Comments

  • Here in Connecticut they banned the party lever decades ago for all the reasons you stated.
    For a voter a ID all you need is your valid driver license or an utility bill or any other bill that has your name and address on it.
    We also allow for a candidate to be listed for multiple parties, for example Governor Lamont is a Democrat and is running as a Democrat but the Green Party also endorsed him for governor so he is on the ballot twice. It is the total votes of the two lines that are counted for Lamont.
    I like it because you can vote for a third party and still have you vote counted towards Lamont because it keeps the third party on the ballot.

  • I agree with you. I wish more people would put more thought into how they vote and didn’t just choose the candidates by what party they identify with.
    In my county in PA, you cannot just push a button to vote straight party anymore. This isn’t because it is outlawed but has to do with the machines we now use.
    We used to vote electronically on machines where you could choose to vote straight party if you wished. Those machines did not, however, have a paper back up. A paper back up in now required in PA.
    We now are handed a ballot and we fill in the ovals next to the candidates we wish to vote for. The ballots are fed into a machine that tallies the vote and stores the ballot as a paper back up. There is no option to vote straight party anymore.

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