Record editorial: It’s time for Utah to eliminate straight-ticket voting
In last fall’s election, 6,688 Summit County residents did something they won’t be able to do in Utah again if a bill in the state Legislature is signed into law: check the box on their ballot for a straight-party ticket.
While the straight-ticket option is popular — the number of people who used it in Summit County represents just under a third of everyone who cast a ballot — it runs counter to how our electoral process should work.
It’s about time lawmakers eliminate it.
The responsibility of making informed selections is something residents should take seriously when they vote. Our civic duty extends beyond pulling the lever for a single political party and requires us to familiarize ourselves with candidates and their platforms and weigh them on their individual merits. And that’s never been easier, as the rise of mail-in balloting has allowed residents to research races as they fill out their ballots from home.
Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with ultimately voting only for candidates from one party. But the fact Utah currently allows voters to take a thoughtless shortcut to that outcome is problematic. That’s why straight-party voting is already banned in more than 40 states.
The practice is particularly dubious with regard to down-ballot races. While county-level seats, for instance, are decided by partisan elections, many of the issues local elected officials grapple with don’t have clear party-line divisions. It’s up to voters to see through political affiliation to determine which candidates will best serve the community. Even in today’s hyper-partisan culture, basing such judgements solely on the letter that appears next to a candidate’s name is a senseless approach.
Fortunately, there is hope for those eager to see the straight-ticket option removed from the ballot. H.B. 259, sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent, a Democrat from Millcreek, received a favorable recommendation from a House committee Wednesday and appears slated for a vote before the full chamber. And while Democrats have primarily led the push for similar legislation in recent years, the bill is unlikely to drastically boost one party’s electoral standing. And it’s far from a strictly partisan issue.
Summit County Republican Party Chair Brantley Eason, for instance, is one prominent member of the GOP who supports the bill, saying he’s hopeful the measure would accomplish its intention of encouraging voters to become more informed.
That’s a goal both parties can, and should, get behind. Even if it means Utahns will have to do a little more work to vote for their candidates in the next election.