Continuing what’s shaping up to be a trend of centrist politicians and organizations putting more of a stamp on process than on policy – not a criticism, just a fact – Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT), who heads the Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats, and Charlie Dent (R-PA), who heads the Tuesday Group of centrist Republicans, are now targeting straight-ticket voting. In Canada, that’s both more and less of an issue for us in the following two ways:
- A vote for a Member of Parliament (MP) is automatically counted as a vote for that candidate’s party’s leader, who is running for prime minister. Yes, we use the word “leader.” Please judge us.
- Our provincial elections rarely, if ever, coincide with federal elections.
I suppose you could also count the fact that most of us don’t elect senators, but let’s not get into that. Anyway, in the U.S., straight-ticket voting (which we will shorten to STV) allows voters to select all the Democrats or Republicans on the ballot by checking a single box. 15 states allow this, including Indiana, Iowa and North Carolina. If you don’t know why I specified those three, here.
But I digress. Matheson and Dent’s bill, the People Before Party Act, adds language to existing election legislation barring states from the ability to “provide a voter with the opportunity to indicate the selection of a political party as a representation of the selection of an individual candidate.” That may seem like an intrusion on states’ rights, but we are talking about processes used in federal elections. Check Section 5 of Article I if you don’t buy that.
Here’s a quote from Matheson’s press release:
Everywhere I go, people tell me how frustrated they are with the partisan bickering that overwhelms our politics today. This legislation is one step we can take to reduce the role of parties in our elections and encourage everyone to vote for candidates for each federal office by voting the person, not the party.
It’s pretty optimistic to think this bill will make congressional behavior less partisan, especially since this wouldn’t stop a voter from looking for all the Republicans or all the Democrats and making a few more check marks. But it’s a good idea to incentivize voters into looking more closely at their ballots, considering how many items aren’t partisan at all. If Matheson and Dent really want to accomplish their stated objective, their next step would be to require that ballots only list names and not parties. Don’t expect that one to pass.
They’ll also have to grapple with the fact that voters who have stood in line for six hours to vote probably aren’t fond of the idea that they may have to check more than one box. And we can all agree that reform in that area is a much higher priority.