House bill would end straight-ticket voting in federal elections

Centrist members of the House have proposed legislation that would prevent people from straight-ticket voting in federal elections, a measure they hope will weaken voters' allegiance to the Republican and Democratic parties.

Currently, 15 states allow straight-ticket voting, which lets voters pick all the Republicans or Democrats with a single punch or mark on the ballot. But the sponsors of the People Before Party Act, Reps. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), say that practice gives political parties even more control over elections, and can prevent voters from considering the merits of each individual candidate.

"Everywhere I go, people tell me how frustrated they are with the partisan bickering that overwhelms our politics today," said Matheson, who also leads the Blue Dog Coalition.

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"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," he said Monday in a press release.

"Voting is one of the most important rights and responsibilities of any American citizen," said Dent, who leads the Tuesday Group of centrist Republicans. "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."

The bill, H.R. 936, amends the Help America Vote Act of 2002 by adding language saying that no state is allowed to "provide a voter with the opportunity to indicate the selection of a political party as a representation of the selection of an individual candidate."

The 15 states that allow straight-ticket voting include the home states of Matheson and Dent, along with Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.