Congressman Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Congressman Charlie Dent (R-PA) introduced legislation today to end the practice of straight party ticket voting in federal elections. The legislation, H.R. 936, the People Before Party Act of 2013, will reduce the role of partisanship in the voting process. Matheson and Dent, leaders in the Blue Dog Coalition and Tuesday Group respectively, are known problem solvers who are committed to reaching across the aisle to forge commonsense solutions.
Specifically, the Matheson-Dent bill would end the practice of straight-ticket voting in federal elections, a practice that too often discourages voters from evaluating each candidate based on individual qualifications and forces them into an all-or-nothing decision based on party affiliation alone. The bill would set in place a practice by which voters select candidates individually for each federal office, instead of checking one box that assigns their vote to all of the candidates from one party. While individuals could still cast their votes for candidates from the same party, under this bill they would no longer choose one party label to select the candidate for every federal office on the ballot. This legislation applies only to federal races, which include President, US Senate, and US House, and does not require states to follow this practice for their state or local elections.
Currently, only 15 states in the country still allow straight-ticket voting. These states include: Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.
In addition, the Matheson-Dent legislation encourages thoughtful and complete voting participation for non-partisan elections like judicial positions and ballot initiatives. Both types of elections are often overlooked on party prioritized ballots. Reports following last year's elections highlighted this concern and raised the need for greater awareness.
"Everywhere I go, people tell me how frustrated they are with the partisan bickering that overwhelms our politics today. This legislation is one step we can take to reduce the role of parties in our elections and encourage everyone to vote for candidates for each federal office by voting the person, not the party," said Matheson.
"Voting is one of the most important rights and responsibilities of any American citizen," Dent added. "This legislation will promote thoughtful decision making in the voting booth by ensuring that ballots are designed to ask voters to select an individual candidate rather than a political party."