Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bill to Eliminate Straight Ticket Voting Introduced

Senator Mike Delph has introduced a bill to eliminate straight ticket voting at the general election ballot box in Indiana.  Straight ticket voting does very little or nothing to support the strength of the voter in Indiana.  Instead, it gives uncanny amounts of support to political parties, since the masses of uneducated voters will often choose to simply pull a straight-party vote rather than taking time to learn about the candidates they are voting for.

Of course, this bill was instantly met with resistance (and by instantly, I mean I've only HEARD that it's going to be SB 35 because the General Assembly doesn't even have information about the bill up on their website as of this typing).  The prevailing attitude among those that are opposed to this legislation is that it tells voters how they can or cannot vote.  Frankly, that is simply wrong.

Fellow blogger Jon Easter, of the Indy Democrat Blog was seen commenting on at least a couple of threads on Facebook regarding this issue.  This comment, in particular, stood out to me:

If I wish to vote straight ticket, then I should have that choice. He assumes that I don't know what I'm voting for when I choose to use the straight ticket choice. I don't use it every time, but, when I do, I know what the heck I'm doing.

 First, even without straight ticket voting available, you, as a voter, still have that choice.  All you have to do is go down through the ballot and vote for those members of the party you choose to support.  Second, I trust Jon Easter to be an educated voter and know "what the heck" he's doing...but frankly, I don't trust most voters to do the same.

Don't get me wrong here.  I'm not saying that voters are stupid or idiots or anything of the sort.  I'm only saying that, for the average voter, many of the small local races don't feel important to them.  Few voters choose to research those races and discover which option they truly support.  And if that voter chooses to vote straight ticket rather than doing that research then they just might vote for someone they don't at all believe in, or quite possibly disagree with wholeheartedly.  

Of course, eliminating straight ticket voting doesn't eliminate that problem outright.  But it may go a long way in beginning to slow it down.  You see, many of those straight ticket voters may not vote in every race that is on the ballot the way they currently are.  They may look down the ballot and say, "you know what, I don't know anything at all about this race or its candidates....I'm gonna take a pass."  Or, they might say, "You know, I know nothing about this race or its candidates.  I'm gonna check them out and try to learn some more before heading to the ballot box."

Either way, we, as voters and citizens, win as a whole.  I think everyone should vote.  I think everyone should make themselves as informed as possible and vote on every race they can.  But I also believe that voting blindly for candidates in races that you neither know, care about, have researched, nor understand does you no favors.  It does no other citizens any favors, either.

Not every voter is Jon Easter.  They don't all live and breathe politics and politicians.  And if they can't even bother to learn more about the offices they are voting for, or the candidates in those races, then I don't think that making them at least scroll down the ballot for their name and/or party identity is really that bad of a thing.

P.S. - Just in case you were wondering, straight ticket voting has been on a very steady downturn over the last few decades.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are only fourteen states that still have straight ticket voting.  Indiana is one of them.  Let's not let this issue turn into another Sunday alcohol sales...let's not become the laughing stock of the nation by being the last state to get it right.

***UPDATE*** While I was typing this post, Jon Easter also posted on Indy Democrat Blog about this topic.  Check out his post "Delph Wants to Spoil Ballot on Straight-Ticket Voting."  Jon has a very high quality blog that is definitely worth a few minutes of your time each day.