Senator Thom Goolsby

Past Time to Fix Straight Ticket Voting

Past Time to Fix Straight Ticket Voting

Senator Thom Goolsby

Thom Goolsby (1)Straight ticket voting is the poster child for voter laziness and apathy. It causes political parties to push the party label and buzzwords, instead of individual candidates and their strengths. For far too long, North Carolina has been a state where unknown candidates, with or without any talent, have attempted to ride the coattails of their party to success.

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State Senator Buck Newton recently introduced a bill to eliminate straight party voting in North Carolina. The senator believes that voters should cast their ballots for the best candidates, not a party. In an interview with his hometown newspaper, The Wilson Times, Newton noted that over the last 10+ years citizens have shown more and more independence regarding the candidates for whom they will vote. He stated, “I think we ought to encourage people to look closely at the qualifications of each candidate and not the party label they have beside them.”

Democrats have strenuously objected to this legislation. In the last election, 56 percent of straight ticket votes in North Carolina were cast in favor of Democratic candidates. Libertarians received one percent of the straight ticket vote and Republicans, 43 percent.

Democrat opposition to the bill is simple to understand — straight ticket voting works for them. However, their arguments for keeping straight ticket voting are lame. They attempt to argue that Republicans are trying to diminish Democrat turnout and Democrat votes. They even complain that voters will find it more difficult to select candidates.

The Democrats dance around the fact that party labels are not removed from the ballot. In other words, any voter can continue to vote by party, it will just take a little more time to do so.  And there’s the rub — maybe, just maybe, the voter might consider other candidates beyond the “D.”

When interviewed by the Wilson newspaper, NC Democrat Party spokesman Clay Pittman took the cake in trying to defend straight ticket voting:  “A lot of voters don’t have time to do research into the down-ballot candidates, so I think this will probably create a lot more confusion.” When deciphered, what he’s really saying is:  “The Democratic Party makes out well when people don’t pay attention and the confusion benefits us.”

Senator Newton’s bill rightfully addresses a concern that should be on the mind of everyone who appreciates the democratic (small “d”) voting process. Our Founding Fathers counted on an engaged and educated citizenry who were serious and deliberative in their approach to the ballot box.

It is in the interest of no one, save pure political hacks, to reward any party with success at the polls through ignorance and apathy. It should be the hope of everyone that with the death of straight party voting, citizens and parties will be encouraged to spend more time and energy on candidates and issues, rather than slogans and the witless casting of ballots.

TGsignThom Goolsby is a state senator, practicing attorney and law professor. He is a chairman of the Senate Judiciary 1 and Justice and Public Safety Committees. He is also a sponsor of this legislation.