Is it a time-saving option that shortens polling place lines and generates more votes for down-ballot races? Or a lazy practice that bolsters partisanship and discourages voters from researching candidates and their policy positions?
Opinions on straight-party voting vary widely and often don’t fall along party lines. Despite that, several states have opted to eliminate the straight-ticket option over the past five years, including Utah, Texas and Iowa.
Oklahoma is one of six states that offer straight-party voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In the Nov. 8 general election, 42% of voters cast a straight ticket ballot. That’s up from 40% in the 2018 midterms.
State Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater told KOCO she wants to file legislation next session to eliminate straight-party voting. She acknowledged the proposal is likely a long shot. Similar efforts by Democrats recently have failed to receive a committee hearing from the Legislature’s GOP supermajority.
Why have other states with Republican majorities been more eager to do away with the straight-ticket option? It’s complicated.
In Utah, a bill to end straight-party voting gained bipartisan support and was signed into law in 2020. Patrice Arent, the bill’s Democratic House sponsor, told The Salt Lake Tribune that one motivation for introducing the legislation was curbing confusion at the polls. Some voters were confused by the option and thought they were being asked to check their party affiliation, she said.
In Texas and Iowa, legislative efforts to end straight-party voting were led by Republicans who said it would inspire more people to cast votes in nonpartisan races. But Democrats in both states strongly opposed the bills, arguing that eliminating the option would make voting less convenient and increase wait times at the polls, particularly in minority communities that lean Democratic.
In 2018, a federal judge struck down a Michigan law eliminating straight-party voting, ruling that the ban was politically motivated and discriminatory against African Americans who are more likely to vote Democratic and straight party.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on straight-party voting. Did you vote straight party or split your ticket? Do you think Oklahoma should keep or eliminate straight-party voting? Let me know at kross@Oklahomawatch.org.
Note: I’m on vacation through Nov. 30 and won’t be checking email, so please allow me some additional time to reply.
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