‘Straight ticket’ not the problem

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 19 2013 | 12:01 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 11:37 am in
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By The Gazette Editorial Board

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Iowa is one of a declining number of states that offer straight-ticket voting. Voters here still can check one box that applies their vote to all the candidates from one party, instead of individually voting for each candidate in each position on the ballot.

Republican Rep. Peter Cownie of West Des Moines has a bill, HF186, that would eliminate straight-ticket voting in Iowa. Four other states have similar proposals being considered. And just 15 states still allow the practice, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The trend has been to do away with the practice in recent years. Wisconsin did it in 2011.

Nonetheless, we donít see this issue as a major concern in our state. Instead, we wonder whether the proposal reflects a symptom of the political climate. Too much reliance on ideology instead of effective compromise. Too many candidatesí messages based on sound-bite advertising and speeches.

Instead, parties and their candidates could do a better job of creating dialogue with voters and communicating their positions and attributes in more detail so that those casting ballots can more thoroughly compare candidates, not just automatically default to one party.

The argument for eliminating straight-ticket voting is not limited to one party or the other in most states. Generally, the party pushing such a proposal has been on the downside of the practice.

Sure, some folks are always going to vote the party line. But in Iowa, where the number of independent registered voters remains greater than those registered as Democrats or Republicans, we think many voters weigh candidates on more than their party affiliation or the party platform.

Straight-ticket voting in Iowa simply doesnít strike us as a problem deserving much of our legislatorsí time.

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