The 2016 election has come and gone and Donald Trump has been elected. However, when members who voted went to the polls, they were met with more decisions to make than who they would like to elect as president. In addition to presidential candidates, there is the option to vote for U.S. House and Senate representatives, state house representatives and senators, governor, mayor, sheriff and possibly judges in states that elect those officials.
At the beginning of the computerized voting process, there is an option to vote straight-party, or straight-ticket voting, for those who live in Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas or Utah. This means that if a voter were to decide that they liked only Democrats, the ballot would automatically choose all of the officials running for a Democratic seat in any of the elections included in this ballot. There is still an option to scroll through and deselect or change the highlighted candidates, but it is also easy to just place your ballot directly after selecting the straight ticket voting option
Prior to the 1888 election of Grover Cleveland, the local government has had no role in the administration of ballots. In that election, some voters would bring their own ballots, but mostly representatives for each party would stand outside of polls with printed ballots for voters to use. These would often be color-coded for their party and allow for the voter to only have one ballot. The ballots would give only the name of the person running and what they were running for, which is similar to today, but members of society who were able to vote at that time had little opportunity be aware of who they were voting for. With less communication and media coverage, voters often chose almost blindly. There was also little to no privacy for voters, and little understanding was given to those who wanted to vote for both parties until many years later.
The straight-party voting system has since been updated, and privacy is now valued among voters. However, straight ticket voting is still outdated. It allows for voters to be uneducated and lazy in their attempts to fulfill their civic duty. Especially now, in a time of communication and information, there is no excuse for voters to be shocked or confused when they reach the polls and find multiple controversial decisions in need of a vote.
Those who choose to vote for members of their party have must take caution and be educated if they want to make a good decision for their city, county or nation. Being well versed on a senator’s preferences could make a big difference in future legislation and could easily make a difference on the grander scale. While the votes that count at a national level receive the most media coverage, the votes that count towards your local elections tend to have more actual weight. These votes determine who will run your city, your police force, and who will manage tax and economic issues that affect your county specifically.
Straight-ticket voting was abolished in both West Virginia and Michigan in 2015 and 2016 respectively, and was never introduced into many of states. This should be true in all states, as straight ticket voting is simply a crutch that the public should have disposed of a long time ago. Whether or not to do research before entering the polls is a choice, but it is a choice that those who fought for the right to vote for decades would probably urge you to make.
It is too late for this election, but those who have visited the polls no longer have an excuse to be shocked by the next voting booth they step into. Begin looking at your local and national government now so that you can make an educated vote in the next election.