States continue to abolish straight-ticket voting

Updated: Nov. 16, 2018 at 7:14 PM CST
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Alabama is only one of eight states to currently have it, but fewer states have used it over the years.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - You likely remember from this month’s election there is a spot at the top of the ballot that allowed you to simply choose all-democrat or all-republican candidates. It’s called straight-ticket voting.

Alabama is only one of eight states to currently have it, but fewer states have used it over the years.

“A lot of people don’t like straight-ticket voting because they feel it denies good candidates in both parties the opportunity to receive support if individuals are going to vote straight ticket,” said Dr. D’Linell Finley, a political science professor with Alabama State University.

Nicholas Howard, a political science professor with Auburn University at Montgomery, said getting rid of it could incentivize people to understand their candidates.

“Advocates of these types of reforms say if we want voters to be educated and hold their elected officials responsible, they should know some things about those elected officials,” Howard said.

During the last 22 years, the number of straight-ticket voting has decreased according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

States with straight-party voting include:

IndianaSouth Carolina

The Texas legislature eliminated straight-ticket voting in 2017, but the law does not apply until 2020.

In the 2018 midterm elections, nearly 60 percent of straight-ticket ballots in Alabama voted Republican. Forty percent voted Democrat. There were 135 Libertarian Party votes.

Why is there straight-ticket voting?

There are several theories why states have it. Howard said it eases hurdles for voters.

“If we want voters to actually participate, to have higher turnout, higher participation, we need to make it easier for voters to actually participate," Howard said.

Finley said, “Many people just find it easier to vote straight-ticket because you don’t have to look at individual candidates, and many folks are simply kind of lazy."

Party identification is another reason for straight-party voting, according to Grover Plunkett, a political science professor at Faulkner University.

"When you identify with a particular party, that gives a person an identification as it relates to a whole range of issues,” he said. “If you’re a conservative Republican, the abortion issue, you know exactly what your opinions will be about that.”

Who benefits from straight-ticket voting?

This question is in the air, as many experts express different points of view.

Howard suggests the minority party benefits.

“It requires voters to have less of a hurdle to overcome,” he said. “So they can mobilize and not have to educate voters on why they should vote for the non-majority party. All you need to do is vote ‘yes’ one time rather than voting against the majority party repeatedly.”

Finley said the two major parties will benefit.

“And certainly the Independent parties and the other minor parties will certainly lose out,” Finley said.

Plunkett said it’s a gray area in Alabama.

“Probably the Republican Party the most, however you don’t see the Republicans voting straight-ticket as much as you see democrats voting straight-ticket," he said. "So, to just give you a blanket answer to that would be a little difficult.”

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