Party vote should be on ballot

The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a bill eliminating straight-party voting. The measure was forwarded to Gov. Tom Wolf who on Friday vetoed the it.

Unfortunately, the Legislature ignored what would have been a better way to deal with the question of whether to remove the Keystone State from the list of only eight states that still allow the straight-party-vote option. Rather than attempting to make the decision for voters, voters themselves should have been tasked with the responsibility by way of an Election Day referendum.

According to a front-page article in Wednesday’s Mirror, some Democrats criticized the GOP-supported measure, saying they feared that eliminating straight-party voting would stifle the voices of minorities, the poor and people with disabilities.

That argument shouldn’t be judged unreasonable.

Meanwhile, Republicans continued to argue that some GOP candidates probably had lost in the 2018 mid-term election because of voter unhappiness with President Donald Trump.

As Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, explained, some voters — Republican as well as Democrats — who decided to vote straight Democratic perhaps had not intended to vote against Republicans who they actually liked, but ended up doing so by way of their straight-ticket decision.

Meanwhile, the proposed law forwarded to Wolf included two other important provisions: extending the absentee ballot deadline and providing money for new voting machines.

The election-reform bill was described as proposing the biggest changes to Pennsylvania election law in decades.

At least in terms of the straight-party-voting issue, the bill held potential negative consequences eventually for Republicans and Democrats alike.

For example, in years with lengthy general election ballots, some voters might opt not to go to the polls, rather than have to make many individual choices, especially when they haven’t done any “homework.” Coupled with that, some voters might choose to stay away because of possible longer lines and wait times at the polls.

But on the positive side, having to make individual choices, rather than a “lump sum” choice, would be beneficial from the standpoint of encouraging — or putting pressure on — voters to examine the viewpoints and proposals being presented by the candidates before deciding for whom to vote.

An informed electorate is preferable. But even now, voters have the option to vote for as many — or as few — offices as they choose.

They don’t have to make a decision for every contest.

For many people of Blair County, it must have been surprising to learn that 54 percent of the voters who went to the polls last November voted straight-party, and that 47 percent of the votes cast in Blair in the 2016 presidential election also were straight-party ballots.

Even amid the Legislature’s intent to be the one to make the decision on straight-party-voting, lawmakers should have reached out to state residents for their opinions before moving forward, in much the same way that residents in recent months were asked to provide their views on the question of whether recreational marijuana should be legalized.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the way lawmakers chose to proceed.


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