Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

The “scourge” of straight-ticket voting

I continue to be surprised at how much attention the “issue” of straight ticket voting has received since November.

[I]n the legislative session starting Jan. 13, Republican state Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio plans a second run at deleting the straight-ticket option from Texas ballots. His repeal proposal didn’t advance in 2007 .

“Both political parties need to stop being quite so partisan,” Wentworth said.

He said that if a voter wants to favor every Republican or Democrat running, “that’s fine with me; I’m not trying to tell them how to vote. I’m just saying they ought to be more informed by seeing the name.”

[…]

Wentworth traced his interest in the issue back to when he served on Bexar County’s Commissioners Court three decades ago.

Despite working for African American support, he said, he didn’t draw much; many voters pulled the Democratic lever. He said supporters told him: “If they’d seen your name, some of them would have voted for you.”

“I have been aggravated by that actual fact ever since.”

I take Sen. Wentworth at his word when he says he’s been interested in doing something about this for years. I suspect, however, that this is the first time his interest has merited a stand-alone story in the newspaper, however. Amazing what a little change in the electorate can bring about.

Richard Winger, editor of San Francisco-based Ballot Access News , a nonpartisan newsletter that tracks the attempts of individuals to appear on ballots, opposes the one-shot, straight-ticket option.

“People ought to make up their minds what they’re doing and not vote unconsciously (on candidates),” Winger said. “It’s also extremely unfair to independent candidates because they don’t have a straight-ticket device.”

Richard Niemi , a political scientist at the University of Rochester , said the option doesn’t irk the major parties, who want voters to embrace their tickets, but individual officeholders can see the choice as a threat.

“It almost certainly increases the number of voters who don’t know who they’re voting for, other than their parties,” Niemi said.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I knew who I was voting for, in every race. I voted straight ticket this year, for the first time in my voting life, because there wasn’t a Republican worth voting for. If that’s different in 2010, I’ll vote differently. The straight ticket option saved me a few minutes of my lunch hour, and freed up my voting machine quickly for whoever was on line behind me. So there.

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts

12 Comments

  1. RBearSAT says:

    Charles you and I are not the norm on voting. Most people see the ballot for the first time when they walk into the booth. They come for a name candidate, in the case of this year it was Obama. They know there is the rest of the ballot. In many cases they just don’t want to be bothered. As such, dogs get votes and good candidates miss out. It happens in both parties. So Ds could benefit from Rs not being able to vote straight ticket as well.

  2. RBear – I agree with what you say. I’m just amused by how much hand-wringing there’s been over straight-ticket voting since Democrats won all those elections in Harris County. Plus, I thought the two “experts” quoted came off like condescending windbags.

  3. RBearSAT says:

    LOL, you’re right about that. It looks like the Rs may be a little worried about the sudden uptick in D voters. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever straight ticket voted. I just had that fear of the dog I might have voted for down the ballot. Guess I’m a little too paranoid. We’ll see where this goes.

  4. Burt Levine says:

    I have went to a bank after the election and the clerk told me “I just voted straight ticket Democrat for a lot of people I don’t know,” while he was shuffling $100 bills.

    I asked him, “Why would you vote for a person you don’t know? You wouldn’t give the $100 bills to someone you do NOT know. You should NOT vote for someone you do NOT know.”

    I may have personally voted for as many Democrats as I did Republicans but I know I didn’t vote for someone I do NOT know.

    It is wrong to me for all the candidates you and I write about to work hard all year hoping to succeed based on their committment to hard work, education, military and community service, fairness and family values or credibility credentials and then to get a vote equal to someone next to them on a ballot that may have done NONE of those things simply b/c they were on same side of an aisle.

    I saw at the polls were people were not saying x candidate is good or his opponent was bad but simply vote straight ticket.

    I would rather someone win b/c x candidate is good or a opponent is bad.

    Hence, is why our odd year elections in Houston, our school board, community college and city council elections are so much more fun because folks do at least have to see the names of those in which they award their sacred vote.

  5. Ginger Stampley says:

    When I read in that article about how other states don’t use straight ticket voting, my first thought was that my ballot in New Jersey was a lot shorter, so I never would have considered it as an option. In Texas, especially big urban counties like Harris, the ballot is huge, and straight-ticket voting is probably saving both the voters and the registrar a lot of resources (or keeping a lot of people from being discouraged by the sheer amount of information and the lack of ease of finding it about some races). Voting for candidates who generally share a set of ideals is supposed to be what straight-ticket voting gets you, after all.

    Maybe if the ballots were shorter, it would be different in terms of time and opportunity cost to participate. To me, the handwringing over ignorant people voting for candidates they don’t know enough is all about keeping voting in the hands of the “right” class of people (i.e., people who agree with the complainer), which annoys the crap out of me.

  6. Ginger Stampley says:

    When I read in that article about how other states don’t use straight ticket voting, my first thought was that my ballot in New Jersey was a lot shorter, so I never would have considered it as an option. In Texas, especially big urban counties like Harris, the ballot is huge, and straight-ticket voting is probably saving both the voters and the registrar a lot of resources (or keeping a lot of people from being discouraged by the sheer amount of information and the lack of ease of finding it about some races). Voting for candidates who generally share a set of ideals is supposed to be what straight-ticket voting gets you, after all.

    Maybe if the ballots were shorter, it would be different in terms of time and opportunity cost to participate. To me, the handwringing over ignorant people voting for candidates they don’t know enough is all about keeping voting in the hands of the “right” class of people (i.e., people who agree with the complainer), which annoys the crap out of me.

  7. hope says:

    Why does anyone think that voters will know more or do more research if they can’t vote straight party? Is there research that indicates this? Seems like the uninformed voter will just click whoever’s got the right initial (R or D) after their name if we take away the straight ticket option. So absent research that indicates otherwise, I don’t buy the claim that nixing the straight ticket option will result in more informed voting.

    Also, why is party affiliation NOT a good way to choose whom to vote for in the absence of other information? Party seems like an excellent way to differentiate among candidates, especially if you are not interested in politics or don’t have time to figure out who’s who.

    The idea that we should vote for the individual rather than the party ignores the primary role the two major parties play in how power is divvied up and decisions are made.

  8. Leif says:

    Really? Grant Dorfman, Bill Boyce, and Jeff Brown weren’t worth voting for?

  9. Burt Levine says:

    at least then they will see individual’s names of who it is they are or are not voting for and giving their sacred vote-a vote is too precious to be given a way in bulk!!

  10. Burt Levine says:

    at least then they will see individual’s names of who it is they are or are not voting for and giving their sacred vote-a vote is too precious to be given a way in bulk!!

  11. Leif – I’m sure they’re decent judges. But it was well past time for the bench to get some diversity of viewpoint, and I was satisfied with all the Democratic challengers (well, except for one, on a different bench; I skipped that race), so no, none of them were worth my vote. Ask me again next time and we’ll see if it’s different.

  12. Leif says:

    I think I must be interpreting “worth voting for” differently than you. You appear to mean that you preferred their challengers; I don’t think I would use that phrase unless I was talking about someone repugnant or unqualified to hold office.