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Panel kills push to end uniform party vote


By Lee Davidson

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jan 30 2013 05:10PM
Updated Jan 30, 2013 11:36PM

Despite pleas from campaign reform groups, a House committee struck down — by a single vote —a bill that would have ended straight-ticket voting by checking one box on ballots.

"It encourages thoughtlessness in voting," Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, explained about her proposal in HB258. She said making voters look at every race on the ballot means "they will actually have to see the names of people who represent them" and think about and research them.

But the House Governmental Operations Committee voted 4-3 against it.

Reform groups including Utahns for Ethical Government, Alliance for a Better Utah and Represent Me Utah testified that too many voters think the first question on the ballot asks them if they consider themselves a member of a party, and they click one not realizing they are casting a straight-party ticket. Then they are confused about whether trying to additionally vote for someone not in that party will invalidate their ballot (it won’t).

Maryann Martindale with Alliance for a Better Utah said too many straight-ticket voters also appear not to continue down the ballot, and fail to vote on judges, nonpartisan school board races and referendums.

Arent said because of such problems, only 12 states still allow straight-party voting by pushing a single button — and none in the West, except Utah. "It’s an anachronism," she said. "It’s time to come into the 21st Century."

But Karen Clark with the conservative Utah Eagle Forum said it would take away a current choice for voters who want an easy way to support everyone in a party because they support similar views to them.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said, "This looks like a bill looking for a problem. Voters are intelligent enough and can understand these ballots." He said that since 36.6 percent of Utahns used the straight-ticket option in last year’s election, according to the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office, it appears to be an option that voters want.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, also said he found it "very troubling" that reform groups assume that voters who use the straight-ticket option are uninformed.

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