By Megan Powell
Legislators are considering getting rid of straight ticket voting.
Senate Bill 391
, authored by Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, would remove a voter’s option to vote for all candidates of the same political party or an independent ticket at one time in a general or municipal election. The one exception would be for candidates for presidential electors.
“I firmly believe, philosophically, that a voter should know who they are voting for and have the chance to actually read the candidates’ names on the ballot before they cast their ballot,” said Delph. “That’s what this is really about.”
Monroe County Clerk Linda Robbins testified during the Elections Committee meeting Thursday that the problem goes beyond philosophy. She said voters can get confused and select straight ticket voting for one party, but then decide later to select a candidate from the other party, therefore marking both.
“We did an analysis in our county and of the straight party tickets, we ran through and one out of every six races had a change in who would be voted for and who would not be voted for,” Robbins said. “A lot of people think they have a lot of votes when they did not get votes.”
Robbins’ statement sparked questions from committee members about whether straight ticket voting is doing more harm than good.
“So, are you telling me that people that use straight ticket voting, the way that these ballots are set up as normal – people are actually losing votes?” asked Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis.
“That’s right,” said Robbins.
Statistics from the National Conference of State Legislatures
shows Indiana is one of nine states with straight ticket voting. Earlier this month, Michigan banned straight ticket voting. The law’s author, Michigan State Sen. Marty Knollenberg, wants other states to adopt similar laws.
“It should be about the candidate and not the political party,” said Knollenberg in an interview Thursday. “I think that is a good thing. We should be choosing the people that we vote for based on the person and not the political party.”
While legislators at the meeting worried removing straight ticket voting could lead to longer lines at the poll, Knollenberg, a Republican, said voting should be a thoughtful process.
“I think that voting is very serious and important and this should not be a McDonald’s drive thru type of process,” said Knollenberg. “So if it takes someone a little bit longer to actually check off the person’s name, I think that is a good thing.”
After the committee meeting adjourned, Sen. Timothy Lanane, D-Anderson, said he wanted to hear more facts.
“The bill is based off of an assumption that straight party voters are uninformed,” said Lanane after the hearing. “Well, some voters, whether they vote straight party or otherwise are uninformed I suppose, but I would want to see hard statistics and data in terms of proof that the straight party voting ticket leads to voters being less informed.”
Delph said he wants to make sure that Hoosiers double-check their answers.
“To me the fundamental issue comes down to should an individual before they cast their ballot for a person, a human being, for an elected office, should they have to know the name of who they are voting for?” Delph said.
Committee members said they plan to meet with Robbins at a later time to discuss her report of voting discrepancies. The bill will be heard in committee again next week.