Straight-ticket voting wrong

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register        

WHEELING, W.Va. — For decades, one of the tools Democrat Party leaders in West Virginia used has been straight-ticket voting. Encouraging the party faithful to just mark one box on a ballot or touch one square on a screen to vote for all candidates of that party seemed to be good for the Democrats.

Many Republican leaders grit their teeth at the practice. Voters should consider candidates carefully and cast ballots for them as individuals, not members of a particular political party, said many in the GOP.

They are absolutely right. West Virginia’s system of allowing straight ticket ballots has permitted more than a few incompetent people – and some outright scoundrels – to be elected because they were members of the right party. Again, for many years that happened to be the Democrats.

But it changed last fall. About 53,200 Mountain State voters cast straight-ticket Democrat ballots. They were vastly outnumbered by the 71,000 straight-ticket Republican ballots.

So now, GOP leaders like straight-ticket voting, right?

Wrong. On Tuesday, the state Senate voted 25-8 for a Republican-sponsored bill to outlaw the practice. Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, explained simply that it is the right thing to do.

Of course it is. Now, with Republicans leading both houses of the Legislature, perhaps straight-ticket voting can be prohibited. House of Delegates members should follow the Senate’s lead on the bill. Then Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin should sign the measure into law – to move voters toward looking at the people, not the parties, listed on election ballots.

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