Secretary of State’s Electoral Initiative: Too Much and Too Little – Part One
Marc’s two thorough analyses of straight party voting last Tuesday is a good cue to break the bad news that the legislative package to be introduced in January by Rhode Island’s Secretary of State – one of the guardians of our electoral process – does not include elimination of the straight party lever. (That does not, however, preclude some good-government-minded legislator from introducing such a bill.)
I have broken the three important aspects of Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis’ initiative into three posts, this first dealing with the aforementioned
Straight Party Lever – Untouched
About this omission, the Secretary of State, via his Communications Director, Chris Barnett, said in late October:
On Election Day 2006, about 20 percent of voters used the straight-ticket option — 61,357 voted Democratic and 18,424 voted Republican, which was roughly the same proportion of voters in each party. Given that one-in-five voters used the master lever, we know that a significant number of voters value the option to vote straight party. Unlike a few critics of straight-ticket voting, we presume the best about Rhode Islanders. People who take the time to vote know their own minds. Straight-ticket voting is an endorsement of a platform of policies specific to a particular party. The straight-party option also has flexibility, too. You can vote straight-ticket and vote for an off-ticket candidate or candidates on the same ballot. A vote for a particular off-ticket candidate negates the straight-party vote for that particular office only.
Elimination of the straight party lever is long overdue. If a voter wishes to vote only in a particular race or on a particular issue, he or she can simply leave the rest of the ballot blank. As commenter Patrick said, straight party voting is
lazy, thoughtless and really just irresponsible.
And leaving the straight party lever in place is not only irresponsible but a bad governing practice.