Debate 9/11: Let’s Make Tammany Hall Great Again

T hird Parties have long complained that having the two major parties in charge of the election process gives Republicans and Democrats an unfair electoral advantage. Only Republicans and Democrats have a seat at the table at local Boards of Election and only one of the two major parties will ever control the Secretary of […]


Cartoon courtesy of Mike Thompson, Detroit Free Press
Q: Should one-button straight party voting be permitted?

By David H. Landon

Third Parties have long complained that having the two major parties in charge of the election process gives Republicans and Democrats an unfair electoral advantage. Only Republicans and Democrats have a seat at the table at local Boards of Election and only one of the two major parties will ever control the Secretary of State’s office. This rather one-sided arrangement gives them a number of advantages over third party organizations. Of the numerous advantages, one that had been widespread until very recently had been the practice of straight-party voting.
It makes sense why political parties want straight-party (or straight ticket) voting (STV) at the polls during any election. STV is the practice of voting for all the nominees for political office from one particular party, i.e. selecting all the Republicans or Democrats running for local, state, and national office by simply pressing one button. It is a practice that made political empires like Tammany Hall and Richard Daley’s Ward System in Chicago powerful. This is not currently part of the voting system in every state. While one way to vote straight down party lines is to literally go through the whole ballot and select each candidate of a preferred party, some states—including Texas—offer an option on the ballot which allows voters to check a single box to automatically select each candidate of their party of choice.
Proponents claim STV is a fast, convenient way to fill out a ballot, but by casting a straight-ticket ballot, a voter is essentially putting blind faith in their party to select (and thoroughly vet) candidates. Though for most of U.S. history, straight-ticket voting was the rule, not the exception, only 14 states continue to offer STV options on their ballots as the practice is steadily going out of fashion.
Those who opposed the STV argued that the practice in fact disenfranchised voters by making it harder for them to exercise independent thought. Seven states have abolished it since 1994. There was every indication that STV was becoming obsolete as a voting option.
In New Mexico in 2010, which was a STV voting state at the time, the GOP won control of New Mexico’s governorship and the secretary of state’s office. Once in control, the Republican secretary of state abolished STV, probably out of fear that it would help the Democrats in future elections. New Mexico’s GOP defended the move, arguing that it would bring “New Mexico into the twenty-first century.” New Mexico operated for eight years without the use of straight ticket voting.
Yet now, in a sudden move with clearly suspicious timing, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (an elected Democrat), announced last week that voters in November will once again be able to vote via STV. Why this sudden move? Perhaps because despite 0.7% of New Mexico voters are registered Libertarian compared to 45.9% Democrat and 30.5% Republican, Libertarian and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is rapidly gaining ground at 21% (compared to 39% for Democrat candidate Martin Heinrich and 11% for Republican Mick Rich).
Why do some observers claim the Secretary of State’s move was suspicious? Perhaps because she made the move with no public hearing. Her excuse? “The more options people have, the easier it is for more eligible voters to participate—and participation is the key to our democratic process. As Secretary of State, I am committed to making it easier—not harder—for New Mexicans to vote…From moms juggling work and kids to elderly veterans who find it hard to stand for long, straight-party voting provides an option for voters that allows their voices to be heard …”
An incensed Gary Johnson responded, “Suggesting that New Mexico voters don’t want to take the time to actually indicate their preferences for each office is ridiculous …”
The New Mexico Republican and Libertarian parties are now suing to reverse the decision. By the way, New Mexico Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver is seeking re-election herself in November.

Q: Should one-button straight party voting be permitted?


Be ballot-savvy

Yea to straight and narrow. Nay to Straight-Party Voting

By Marla Boone

Seeing what a mess the two major parties have made of this country, it’s hard to argue against giving third parties a larger voice. On the other hand, Green Party Candidate and general spoilsport Ralph Nader wrested enough votes away from Al Gore in 2000 to put Dubya in the White House. Bush beat Gore in Florida by 537 votes. Nader got 97,421 votes. Pat Buchanan received 17,484. Harry Brown managed 16,415. This, of course, changed the face of American politics, not to mention America, forever.

Straight-party voting (which sounds like some sort of anti-gay consortium) is the custom of voting for all the nominees for political office from one particular party by simply pressing one button. This system made political empires such as Tammany Hall and the Democratic hold on Chicago possible. Some states have moved away from this practice. Fourteen states including Texas still offer an option on the ballot that allows voters to check a single box to automatically select each candidate from their party of choice. Advocates of this process say straight-party voting is a fast, convenient way to vote. And isn’t that just what we don’t want? A speed-driven, mindless, absence-of-thought mindset when choosing our elected officials.

Voting is a privilege. Ask any felon. It can and should hold enormous importance to those who choose to be tasked with selecting the next leaders of our states and country. That there are those who choose to opt out of the whole transaction “passeth all understanding.” Voting should require some thought. It should require some soul-searching and deliberation. Obviously, given what was just ensconced in the White House, too many people already are giving little or no consideration to the consequences of their vote. Straight-party voting encourages, if not requires, voters to put tremendous trust in their chosen political party. Voters who succumb to the simple are assuming their party has thoroughly investigated and vetted the candidates on the ticket. Judging by the number of “Oh my Gods” that are revealed about people once they achieve public office, it’s painfully apparent this is not being done.

Aside from my entirely valid arguments against straight-party voting, the arguments for it seem to be a stretch. We’ve already dissected the “fast and convenient” line of reasoning. This holds almost as much water as “fair and balanced.” The New Mexico Secretary of State said she wanted to re-instate the practice there so that “moms juggling work and kids to elderly veterans who find it hard to stand for long” would have the option of letting “their voices be heard.” The only difficulty with eviscerating that statement is knowing where to start. One assumes from this stupid-speak that dads in New Mexico do not juggle kids and work. And way to play the veteran card! I find it difficult to believe any veteran, whose job it was, after all, to defend our right to vote would mind standing for the extra twenty seconds it takes to press ten buttons instead of one. In Michigan the move is afoot to do away with straight-party voting but not in the primaries. One county clerk has this to say about it: “In the (primary), they’re forced; they (the voters) cannot go from one party to the next. They’ve never liked it, I don’t like it, a lot of people don’t like it. But it’s democracy at its finest.” She had me right up till the last sentence. This isn’t democracy at its finest. It’s democracy at its laziest. Another person opined it provides an easy (there’s that word again) way to vote for a philosophy on a ballot filled with perhaps dozens of candidates, many of whom the voters know little about. What sense does this make? Make it “easy” to vote for a candidate the voters know little about?

Joel Kurtinitis, a writer for the Des Moines Register who describes himself as a conservative-libertarian, has a word he uses for this. Groupthink. His opinion and mine is that we need to move away from groupthink and toward the independent thought that used to define American culture. He laments the fact that the first choice on an Iowa ballot is an option to evade the admittedly unpleasant realities of the political world that face us and hide behind the label of a political party. And, in a thought that never occurred to me, he offered some sympathy for the candidates themselves. “Running for office,” he says, “takes an incredible amount of time, money, and hard work and that’s daunting enough without the knowledge that over a third of the people in any given district may not even glance at your name before turning in a vote for your opponent.”

Voting on the national level is experiencing resurgence in America. It’s up 300 per cent from 2012 and 800 per cent from 2008. That’s the encouraging news. The inevitable bad news is, many of these voters are using the cop-out of straight-party voting to vent their frustration instead of being responsible citizens and doing due diligence.

Let’s not make it easier for people to be idiots. If they’re too lazy to press ten buttons instead of one, too bad.


Stand up and be counted

It’s your right

By Missy Mae Walters

We presently live in a country where we produce citizens who will wake up in the early hours on Black Friday and stand in  line for a crazy amount of time to get a deal on the latest gadget. Ask the same person to drive across the street in their neighborhood and stand in line for a fraction of the same time to vote on Election Day? The chance of them doing so is slim to none.

I’ll be the first to admit our society’s priorities are extremely convoluted and continue to get worse each day. Unfortunately, I also believe arguing on how to correct it has become a waste of time.

However, time is important in this discussion. Time is the most valuable commodity we have and some would be more likely to vote if it was as easy as pushing a button. Remember, time is the only thing we can never get back and people seem to be growing more impatient.

Reasonable accommodations should be used to protect the vote while adapting to our fast-paced culture. A single-button party line voting option is one accommodation I am willing to accept and in years past was widely acceptable throughout the U.S. This method allows voters who are already committed to voting a straight party ticket, the ability to push one button to vote for all party candidates and be done. I would not be okay with online or email voting, however, because I believe those methods could endanger the security of our voter.

Ohio at one time did have an option for a one-lever straight ticket vote, but it was abolished nearly 70 years ago in 1949. Over the course of the past two decades, legislative action has abolished the practice of straight ticket voting in more than 10 states. Presently, there are only nine states that continue to practice this type of voting: Alabama, Michigan, Texas, Indiana, Kentucky, Utah, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

The debate over providing a straight party ticket single-button option in non-primary elections is two-fold. Opponents will question whether or not the ease of allowing this growing contingent to vote in this manner will inadvertently reduce the critical thinking skills of voters and also further increase partisan polarization.

Those who want to debate the reduction of critical thinking skills of voters need a reality check. Knowledge and understanding of the issues or candidates is not a prerequisite to being a voter in our great country. You can drive yourself crazy watching voter interviews following elections addressing the reasoning behind someone’s vote. In most cases, it makes you cringe because people can come up with some pretty crazy reasons. But the fact remains, we cannot police the intelligence of individuals in voting.

It is their prerogative to vote how they so choose. There are many, including myself, who use what is called a “slate card” when filling out my ballot to make certain the party’s candidates are all supported. I do this because I believe in my party and want to support my party’s platform. Both major parties provide slate cards, which contain their parties chosen candidates.

For most people, it is impractical to learn everything about all the candidates, so a slate card can help in providing a guide. If you have voted in a primary election and requested a specific party’s ballot, chances are you have been mailed a slate card by your local or state political party.

On Election Day, if you work at a polling location or stand outside a voting location, you can see people walking in, proudly carrying their slate cards. While in the voting booth, the voter reviews the slate card while carefully selecting those specific candidates the party has recommended.

This brings us to the real issue of the debate over straight ticket single-button voting, which is partisan polarization. The real issue is about control. Elections have consequences and determine party control on the local, state, and federal levels. This control sets the agenda of discussion and can ultimately reverse previously implemented policies.

As stated earlier, the option of straight ticket voting had at one time been part of the voting process in Ohio.

Why Ohio abolished straight ticket voting nearly 70 years ago was because Republicans feared losing seats across the state, including the U.S. Senate seat then held by Senator Robert “Mr. Republican” Taft. A popular Democrat, who was liked by Republicans, would be running at the same time for governor. To ensure their survival, they struck down straight ticket voting so Republicans could vote for Republicans like Senator Taft along with the Democrat running for governor.

When it comes down to it, the name of the game in politics is turning out your vote. This is how you win elections. You identify your supporters and make sure they vote. A one-button option should be no worry to a political party if they have an appealing message and they work hard to turn out their supporters.

As a citizen you have many freedoms, including supporting whatever party you please. A one-button option is just, simply put, an option. I highly doubt either party wants to take a chance on the temperature of the voters. As you are aware, in Ohio, it changes often. Now please, can we improve these pathetic voter turnout numbers? Make sure to vote this November!

Tags: , ,

David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at DaveLandon@DaytonCityPaper.com.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Got an Opinion?

YourOpinionMatters

We are interested to hear what you think.  Please send us a message. [contact-form 4 “Opinion”]  

No Jet Engines Here

20

The very first thing is to learn how to pronounce it. No rhyming with the home of Baylor University in […]

LFD8N

3-_MG_2637

No music and arts festival would truly be complete without… wrestling, right? Well, this year at Ladyfest Dayton, buckle down […]

Lives-in-progress, demo-style

Juliet7

Right from the start of this Jesse Peretz adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel Juliet, Naked, there’s something warm and unfinished […]

Are ‘Friends” Electric?

hands

Gary Numan’s Savage return to form at CVG’s Bogart’s Gary Numan with daughter Persia, who sings on the new single […]

Something Magical

IMG_9660

How do you celebrate a tenth birthday? If it’s Shakespeare in South Park (SiSP) you will have learned a lot […]