Governing magazine: Straight party vote boost for GOP?

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 13-May-2010

Josh Goodman, a reporter for Governing Magazine, is studying the impact of straight-ticket voting in states, such as Oklahoma, that still allow the process. The option may boost partisan waves (Democrats in 2006 and 2008; possibly Republicans this year), but that is not certain.  Goodman wrote in a May 9 blog posting, “I’m a bit more skeptical than I was in 2006.”

A thumbnail of his conclusions: “[I]t doesn’t strike me that Democrats’ victories in the last two election cycles have been all that much more dramatic in the states that have a straight-ticket device than the ones that don’t. Part of the reason probably is that if voters want to exclusively support one party, they will — straight-ticket button or no button.

“To the extent there’s an impact, it’s on downballot races. When citizens can vote a straight ticket with just one click, they vote for every office rather than dropping off when the names become unfamiliar. Partisans who showed up just to vote for president or governor end up voting for everything.”

Goodman observes straight-ticket voting might have benefited New Hampshire Democrats in 2006, when election results seemed to shatter all vestiges of Republican dominance in the Granite State. In 2007, Democrats moved to abolish the straight-party voting option. 

As he wrote: “[T]he newly empowered Democrats scrapped it soon after the 2006 election, fulfilling a long-time promise. At the time, that looked like it went against the party’s self-interest. New Hampshire had turned blue, so why not let the partisan Democrats vote a straight ticket for years to come? Now, with the Republicans resurgent in the state, the moves looks savvy.” 

These states allow straight-party voting: Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Goodman’s entire post is linked here.