A bill under consideration in the state legislature would eliminate the traditional “straight party ticket” option of ballots. On the current ballot, this option allows a voter to make only one mark, for example, “Republican,” and automatically cast a vote for every GOP candidate in every race on the ballot.
Although this is convenient for those who know little or nothing about the individual candidates, it encourages uninformed voting. One of the major flaws of democracy is the overwhelming majority of voters who are simply uneducated about local, state and national politics. The legislature should not tell its voters that this is okay.
It is possible, though unlikely, that this change would have a noticeable effect on the voter turnout. After all, people don”t like these things to be complicated. As we saw with the Palm Beach County butterfly ballot controversy following last year”s general election, when the ballots are complicated, people make mistakes.
It is also unlikely that this change will significantly affect the outcome of a vote. Perhaps all the people who used to mark “Republican” at the top of the ballot will now individually select the Republican candidate in each race. But it is also possible that it will encourage voters to abstain from the races about which they know nothing at all. This will result in a more informed vote.
This change is most important, however, in the message it sends to voters. If the state eliminates the “straight party ticket” option, then that would show that state government does care about voters being informed about candidates and important issues. At the very least, it encourages people to learn a little more before they enter voting booths the next year. When voters are informed, democracy works.