Straight-party voting poses apathy problem

Pierce Godwin
Staff writer

The long-awaited 2014 midterm elections are in the books. Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett told The Montgomery Advertiser that he expected only 48-50 percent of all Alabamians to vote. However, only 41 percent actually participated on Tuesday.
Many Alabamians who participated on Tuesday were well aware of the candidates they voted for, but others chose to use the quicker method of straight-ticket voting. According to a Pike County report, the Alabama Democratic Party received straight-party voting of 25 percent of the Pike County ballots cast and the Alabama Republican Party received 11.4 percent.
As in every election, many are wondering whether straight-ticket voting is effective. Straight-ticket voting has its benefits, but its disadvantages are too large to pass over.
Straight-ticket voting, or straight-party voting, is when an individual votes for everyone affiliated with one specific political party.
Voting is a right we possess. We should make responsible decisions based on the candidate, not the candidate’s party affiliation. Straight-ticket voting does nothing but encourage laziness and apathy in voters.
Not everyone who votes straight-ticket is unaware of each candidate’s values. However, it is hard to believe that all Alabamians who vote straight-ticket can elaborate on what each candidate stands for and why they voted for that candidate.
Political parties support straight-ticket voting because it generally helps the majority by suppressing votes toward the minority. Alabama is a more conservative state. The Democrats in Alabama are slightly more opposed to straight-ticket voting than the Republicans. When a voter marks the straight-ticket box, he or she has just removed any chance of Democrats, or third-party candidates, from winning a close race.
Joe Hubbard, the Democratic candidate for attorney general of Alabama, lost the election on Tuesday in a close race against incumbent Luther Strange.
Hubbard fought hard to gain votes by reaching across the aisle with straight-ticket-voting Republicans.
On Monday, Hubbard tried to encourage Republicans to vote for him while still voting straight-ticket by tweeting that “(v)oters can vote straight-ticket and still get rid of Luther Strange.”
Hubbard tried to appeal to all Alabamians by claiming that Strange has not done his job as attorney general. One of his advertisements focused on cleaning up Alabama and featured the phrase “I’ll clean up Alabama. Let’s start with the office of attorney general.”
Straight-ticket voting also encourages partisanship. When people choose to support all the candidates in a political party, they are allowing one group to gain control of the leadership.
If everyone in Alabama voted straight-ticket, then the majority party would win the election.
According to Oklahomans For Ballot Access Reform, independent candidates are not represented in the straight-ticket voting system. Moreover, not all races have a candidate from all qualified parties.
Personally, I think the biggest problem with straight-ticket voting is that when an individual selects the Democrat or Republican bubble, he has allowed a political party to select the candidates for him. No longer can an individual decide who he wants to represent him.
In a perfect world, political parties should work together for a common goal, but that is not how it works.
After Tuesday, Republicans have kept the House and stolen the Senate.
On Wednesday, Fox News published an article on what to watch for over the next two years. Mitch McConnell, prospective Senate majority leader from Kentucky, plans to stop “perpetual conflict” between Congress and the White House. The article continues to say that not all Republicans feel the same as McConnell.
Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that he will plan to push for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
I believe that there will not be many occasions when both parties will reach across the aisle for compromise.
Eliminating straight-ticket voting would encourage each voter to give more thought to whom she is voting for.
However, those who continue to vote with a party can still do so if straight-ticket is eliminated.
Eliminating straight-ticket voting does not remove the “D” or “R” next to a candidate’s name.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 14 states, including Alabama, currently allow straight-ticket voting. I believe it should only be a matter of time before Alabama eliminates it as a valid method of voting.

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