February 10, 2009

Bi-partisan Effort to Stop Straight-Party Ticket Option

Marc Comtois

A couple freshman RI legislators--one a Democrat and the other a Republican--have introduced a bill (PDF) to discontinue straight-party ticket voting in RI. From the Projo Politics blog:

Freshmen Representatives Brian C. Newberry, a North Smithfield Republican and Democrat Michael J. Marcello, of Scituate, have teamed up to submit legislation that would prohibit straight-party voting: the law allowing voters to cast their entire ballots for one party's candidates by checking a single box at the top of the ballot.

Rhode Island is one of just 16 states that still allow straight-ticket ballots, a holdover from 19th century party machine politics. For years, Rhode Island Republicans have fought to eliminate the option, saying it makes it harder for GOP candidates to break the Democratic party's hold.

But rarely have Democrats and Republicans come together to push for the change.

"While the straight ticket voting option does make the voting process quicker for some, the controversy surrounding its use has unfairly called into question the legitimacy and fairness of elections," Marcello said in a statement, ironically issued by the Republican caucus.

"I believe that people who want to vote for all candidates from a particular party will continue to do so, and the elimination of straight-party lever will finally end the speculation that somehow election outcomes would be different."

"By eliminating this option, it would force candidates to reach out to communities and make their positions known, as opposed to relying on their party hold," Newberry said in the same statement."

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing, but none has yet been scheduled.

I'm not holding my breath for a hearing. But we'll see.

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The fact that it is two freshment proposing it tells you something. No chance of passing. Until you get a big name on the bill, no chance. But baby steps, I guess.

Posted by: Patrick at February 10, 2009 9:21 AM

The funny thing is that many Dems who have commented on getting away from straight party voting are in in favor of its elimination. Or are they saying one thing just to look better and are too afraid that the people will not want to elect them without it? It's a sad thing to depend on uninformed voting to retain one's seat! I commend this bipartisan effort and there will be help out there for these two legislators in getting attention for this bill.

Posted by: Sue Story at February 10, 2009 10:36 AM

I have mixed feelings over this. I certainly strongly feel that people should not vote on a straight party ticket but the sad truth is that there are many who do vote on a straight party line and if that is the case, then why eliminate a tool to do that easily without error. For me, it’s sort of like voting for a candidate based on one single issue. I’d prefer people think more broadly but the reality is that is how some people choose who to vote for. I guess it’s part of the whole two-party dominated system that I wish to move away from – but that is even less likely to happen than a playoff in NCAA Football. Money and power rule. The costs of capitalism (yet still greatly outweighed by the benefits, in my view)

Posted by: msteven at February 10, 2009 11:56 AM

Or are you crying in your beer because the Republican candidates are so repugnant that they cannot get elected. Redo the Republican Party, say more in the image of Lincoln Chafee than Carcieri, and you may get more than 4 Repugnants in the state senate. "The fault, Dear Brutus, is not in the stars, but in ourselves."

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at February 10, 2009 1:07 PM

OTL, as if Republican politicians are more repugnant than Democratic politicians. Spare me. You said yourself you wished Obama would make a sharp-left turn politically speaking yet you voted for him. The political tide ebbs and flows. How about the question posed in the post. Do you think it should be made easier for people to vote a straight party ticket? Or not. (let me guess, you think it should be allowed for Dems but no one else).

Posted by: msteven at February 10, 2009 3:43 PM

Old Time Lefty
Don't you think your argument would hold better if voters had selectively voted for each Dem. candidate, rejecting each of the so called "Repugnants", than mindlessly voting for a party? I don't think people should vote straight Republican either!!

Posted by: sue story at February 10, 2009 3:45 PM

From what I have witnessed, straight party voting punishes local non-partisan races. The mindless who vote straight party because they are told to or are too lazy fill in one line and they are done. They never travel further down the ballot for those races.

The candidates the republican party put forth were great the last 3 election cycles. There was a brain surgeon, a war hero, business people, a former federal atty in the organized crime division. The dem side had the usual cast of characters which included more public employee union robots, suspects in Operation Dollar Bill, and a longtime candidate you could look up on americanmafia.com.

Posted by: kathy at February 10, 2009 3:58 PM

This liberal wholeheartedly supports this bill because the Democrats who benefit most from straight-ticket voting are the ones conservatives count on to do their bidding. Anything that gives forward-thinking Republicans and independents a better opportunity to take these folks down is fine by me.

Posted by: rhody at February 10, 2009 7:40 PM

Rep. Brian Newberry and Rep. Mike Marcello are bill sponsors - two new legislators - one a Rep. and one a Dem. This is an issue for the people - let's give them more choice in candidates and make candidates more accountable. E-mails of support to rep-newberry@rilin.state.ri.us would help show the support out there for this change. Bill hearing is today in House Judiciary at 4:30 pm.

Posted by: sue story at February 11, 2009 9:27 AM

Personally, I never vote a straight party ticket. When I finish with my ballot most of the candidates who receive my vote are Democrats and real leftists (No, the Democrats are not Leftists, so personally the question does not concern me. I'd probably vote to keep the option on the ticket, though I would urge every voter to inform him/herself as best as possible before entering the booth.
Yes, I do sometimes vote for a Republican, Sue Sosnowski when she was one and Linc Chafee (voted for him over Whitehouse, but will probably vote for Whitehouse over any Carcieri affiliated Republican). You want a Republican vote from me bring back Linc.

Voting a straight party ticket is not evidence of a mindless vote. The mindless also split tickets or stay away from the voting booth entirely. The mindless also weigh heavily upon nonsensical stereotypes like "public employee union robots, suspects in Operation Dollar Bill, and a longtime candidate you could look up on americanmafia.com."

I am not a Democrat. I have not been one since Lyndon Johnson promised to get us out of Viet Nam and then escalated the war. So where did you possibly get the idea that I'd support straight ticket for Dems, but not Repubs?

Try to digest this; I really support a multi-party system with proportional representation. Viable third and fourth parties would obviate the need for a straight party vote and promote more of a mix and match approach.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at February 11, 2009 2:48 PM

"I really support a multi-party system with proportional representation. Viable third and fourth parties would obviate the need for a straight party vote and promote more of a mix and match approach."

You try to digest this; You and I both support the same idea - and for the same purpose.

Posted by: msteven at February 11, 2009 8:59 PM

Glad to have you aboard. Now will you stop referring to me as a Democrat?

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at February 11, 2009 9:26 PM
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