The recent Michigan Court of Appeals decision to allow straight-ticket voting should serve as an energizing force to end the option. Though the policy was ruled constitutional, it’s not good public policy. Michiganders who oppose straight-ticket voting should not be discouraged by this decision. Although voters decided in 2002 to vote against a referendum that would have ended straight-ticket voting, the opposition should continue to educate others about the deleterious effects of such a system in the hope that it will some day end.
Straight-ticket voting is a serious threat to the visibility of third parties. Voters are unlikely to utilize their straight-ticket option on a third party. This state already has enough election laws that hinder third parties; a law that discourages voters from even recognizing third parties as an option on the ballot is a totally unjustified blow to the visibility of these other legitimate parties.
Straight-ticket voting also decreases in interest and voting for proposals, referendums, and candidates that do not participate in partisan debate. Further, those who choose to make a straight-ticket vote are very likely to neglect the non-partisan proposals and ballot initiatives that often appear at the end of the ballot. Eliminating the option for a straight-ticket vote will remind individuals to pay attention to these options that do not garner as much press attention as the partisan races do.
Straight-ticket voting also tends to suppress thinking about the real candidates and issues. If voters totally identify themselves with a party and plan to cast a straight-ticket vote every time, they will most likely not pay attention to the individual candidates running for their party. An obsession with ideology coupled with a total lack of interest in the actual candidate does not make for a particularly knowledgeable or effective vote. Voters should inspect individual candidates’ records before supporting them. The public should know the names and individual platforms of the people for whom they are voting.
The arguments in favor of straight-ticket voting are specious at best. Supporters say that lazy people will be more likely to vote if they have a straight-ticket option because they will not have to punch out so many holes if they know which party they prefer. The assertion that people would not vote because they do not wish to spend a few extra seconds of intense physical exertion to check a few more boxes is just silly. Supporters also claim that straight-ticket voting will lead to shorter lines and less confusion. Yet longer lines are a small price to pay for greater voter awareness and participation in non-partisan portions of the ballot. Finally, if having to vote for multiple candidates is so confusing that one needs a choice to vote along a party line, then he or she needs to learn more about the candidates and issues before going into the voting booth.