Thursday, March 10, 2016

Eliminate the Straight-Party Ballot Option

           United States Representative Charlie Dent, a Republican of Pennsylvania, whose district includes part of Berks County, is sponsor of bipartisan legislation to eliminate in federal elections the straight-party ballot option.  Voters could still vote for all of one political party’s candidates, but the legislation would encourage voters to choose the candidates individually. 

            The straight-party option, such as buttons on electronic machines or boxes on paper ballots for all of a political party’s candidates, is a preferred tool of political party machines, as it depends upon party loyalty and a less-informed and less-responsible electorate.  The elimination of the straight-party option would force voters to make a more informed choice.  Exercising choice is the point of democratic elections.  A better informed and more responsible electorate would make better election choices.  

           All but nine States in the Union have eliminated the straight-party option.  The federal bill to eliminate the option would thus apply only to federal elections in those States.  Pennsylvania is one of the nine.  State elections would not be affected by this proposed federal legislation, but it would make ballots in those States more complicated and undermine the automatic straight-party voting.  Pennsylvania and the other eight States should also eliminate the straight party option, regardless of whether the federal elimination bill passes.  

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