WASHINGTON — Rep. Jim Matheson has introduced legislation that would do away with straight-party voting in all federal races.
Matheson introduced HR936, the People Before Party Act, this week in an effort to end partisanship at the ballot box for all states that allow straight-party voting. The legislation would require the 15 states where straight-party voting is allowed — including Utah — to let voters select a candidate instead of the party in all federal races.
"Everywhere I go people are so fed up with partisanship and polarization in our political system today; they're looking for something better," Matheson said. "In fact, I think the Pew Research Center said most Americans are classifying themselves as independent — they're fed up with both parties."
Matheson said he believes his bill would help lessen the partisanship troubles currently plaguing the country.
"In my opinion, one step we can take to lessen the impact of partisanship in our politics and election is have voters vote on each race individually and not just punch a straight-party ticket," he said. "It's a more thoughtful way to be voting."
Voters would still be free to cast their votes for a candidate from the same party, but would no longer be allowed to choose the straight-party option for all races. However, states could still allow voters to select the straight-party option for state races.
"I think it's appropriate for us to establish, at least at the federal level, which is what we can constitutionally do in Congress for these races, have the voter select each individual candidate," Matheson said. "States are going to have to decide what they're going to do on state races on the ballot, but my legislation would affect federal races."
While straight-party voting often benefits members of both parties, Matheson said he believes "most people just know this is the right thing to do."
In my opinion, one step we can take to lessen the impact of partisanship in our politics and election is have voters vote on each race individually and not just punch a straight party ticket. It's a more thoughtful way to be voting.
–Rep. Jim Matheson
Utah currently allows for straight-party voting, but efforts were made during the current session of the Utah Legislature to do away with the practice. The bill, Straight Party Voting Amendments, was heard in the House Government Operations Committee, but failed to be recommended to the House floor.
Prior to the November election last year, Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, said the practice of straight-party voting is not good for democracy.
"You don't get to really look at other people running," he said. "You just kind of walk in, punch it and walk out without a lot of consideration, and it just doesn't quite give the candidate their due."
While doing away with straight-party voting will eliminate the ability to select one party in an election, it is argued that it is still important for voters to educate themselves on the issues and the candidates.