One-party vote no longer an option

Thursday, November 2, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:49 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — This election season, Missouri voters will no longer be able to choose a straight-ticket option. Instead, they’ll have to vote for candidates and ballot measures individually.

Elimination of straight-ticket voting was included in the controversial voter ID law passed by the legislature earlier this year. While the state Supreme Court threw out the photo ID requirement, it left alone the ban on straight-ticket voting.

“Of all the complaints against voter ID, no one complained about this part,” said Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, who had sponsored a similar straight-ticket voting ban. Ridgeway said that she got the idea for the bill after talking to voters.

“(Straight party voting) was a silly way to cast a vote,” Ridgeway said. “To go blindly in and punch one punch and vote for 35 people, everyone from state auditor to president, doesn’t make sense.”

“I think this will produce a more informed electorate,” she said.

Ridgeway said that the bill faced little opposition from the legislature last spring.

“I don’t even recall being asked to stand up and defend it,” she said.

But Democratic Floor Leader Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis, said that the absence of a straight party ballot this year has opposition from much of her party.

“This is a blatantly partisan law,” Coleman said. “To me, the removal of the ballot is just another really bad component of a horrible bill.”

Coleman said that the law was created to keep Democrats from voting.

“We know that the majority of straight-party voters are Democrats,” she said. “There’s much belief in the Democratic party that this was designed to assist Republicans in their re-election bids.”

According to Stacie Temple, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state, 1 million straight-party ballots were cast in the 2004 election. Democratic ballots outnumbered Republican ballots by only 96,457.

MU political science professor John Petrocik said he agrees that the lack of a straight-ticket option this year will be an advantage for Republicans.

“Democrats are less likely to be motivated to go through and vote for every Democratic party candidate on the ballot,” he said. He added that research hadn’t been conducted on the topic in 20 years, but “this has been conventional wisdom since then.”

“My guess is that this will work to the disadvantage of Democrats this year, although we don’t know how much,” he said.

Coleman said that she hopes the impact of no straight-ticket voting is slight.

“My goal is to help educate people that they just need to spend a little extra time in the booth to vote for every person they want to elect,” she said.

Although voters may be spending more time in the booth, Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren said she does not expect longer lines at the polls this year.

“I’m sure people will complain,” she said. “But we don’t anticipate it making much of a difference on our end.”

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