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Ken Rechtin's Another Voice: Time to End Straight Ticket Voting in Kentucky?

Last week’s survey responses and comments about the efficiency and effectiveness of our numerous governments in NKY demand much more space and time than allotted here in our Survey Says section. 
 
If you wish to have you voice added, click here. The survey will remain open through the coming weekend.
 
You can also email comments to me at [email protected]. I will report and comment on your responses (and my opinion, of course) in next week’s column. 
 
So, let’s jump right into this week’s Another Voice...
 
While going door to door and meeting many of the citizens in Campbell County, I was frequently asked: “What are you, a Republican or a Democrat?” 
 
After I stated my party affiliation as Democrat, the voter would say, “Well it doesn’t matter anyway, I usually vote the person, not the party.” Or they 
might say, “I never vote a straight ticket.” 
 
And then they might add, “Why aren’t these local elections nonpartisan?” 
 
But, what the voter says differs from what they actually do in the privacy of the voting booth.
 
In this last election in Campbell County about 32% of the voters cast a “straight party” ballot. Straight ticket voting (STV) is when a voter 
pushes one button, fills one bubble, or pulls one lever to vote for a whole Democrat or Republican ticket. (There were 5,872 voters who cast a straight 
Republican ticket vote and 3,673 straight Democrat ticket votes.) That means that almost one third of the voters felt that being either a Democrat 
or a Republican made that candidate a better clerk, jailer, property valuation administrator, justice of the peace, judge executive, commissioner, coroner or constable. That makes a whole lot of sense (tongue in cheek)!
 
In the last election, there was an explosion of pro-life “baby feet” on campaign literature for offices that have nothing to do with either being pro-life or pro-choice. Some local candidates now find it necessary to announce their “pro family values” position without explanation of what those values really are. What exactly do “pro life” and “pro family values” really mean; and, are those positions really owned by a particular party? The Republican Party continues to claim ownership of “right to life” (anti pro-
choice) and “pro-family” (anti-gay) issues despite a continuing failure to pass meaningful legislation on either.
 
On the other side of the aisle, what does the endorsement of labor really mean in a race for constable or property valuation administration or judge-executive? Is labor beholden to one party? The Democratic Party claims ownership of the union vote when in reality, many union members cast Republican votes based on the above-mentioned social issues.
 
So, how many states allow “straight ticket voting” (STV)? 
 
Only eleven and Kentucky is one of them.
 
STV has been quickly declining in popularity as, state by state, legislatures remove the option of voting for a party only. In 2006, The Kentucky Post (you remember The Kentucky Post) reported:  “Kentucky is one of only a dozen or so states where voters can, with one flick of the wrist, cast their votes for all the candidates of one party. But if Secretary of State Trey Grayson has his way, it would become a relic of the past. Grayson, a Republican from Boone County, said he'd rather not give voters the option of picking multiple candidates with the push of one button.”
 
Just a few years ago, a bill to eliminate STV was co-sponsored by Ken Upchurch (R-Monticello) and House Majority Caucus Chairman Bob Damron (D-Nicholasville). Trey Grayson, then Kentucky Secretary of State (the chief election officer of Kentucky) said of the bill filed by Damron and Upchurch, “This legislation will encourage citizens to research the candidates on the ballot and make their decision based on the individual and their ideas instead of partisan affiliation.” 
 
Yes, you read that correctly, the current Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President, at that time, supported a removal of STV which he called, “lazy voting”.
 
In March of 2006, Vision 2015, in its report to the community Shaping Our Future called for eliminating outdated constitutional offices and converting certain partisan elections to non-partisan. Vision 2015 sought to change County Coroner, County Jailer and County Sheriff to non-partisan races. A first step in this direction might just be the elimination of STV.
 
If the elimination of STV was good then, why is nothing being done to get rid of it now?
 
I believe that Democrats in our General Assembly feel threatened that elimination of the STV would hasten their inevitable loss of control of the House. And Republicans, buoyed with the euphoria of the very recent Republican tide which swept our state, are fearful of doing anything that might upset the local tidal wave of change being driven by national party politics.
 
Every reasonable voter must admit that there are candidates on both sides of the ballot who do not belong in public office and are definitely inferior to their opponents! 
 
The reason these inferior candidates continue to get elected is the straight-ticket vote. 
 
These are the “coattails” that are so often referred to when one speaks of the “down ticket” races.
 
In my opinion, you should tell your Representative and Senator that Kentucky needs to consider what other states have already done and eliminate STV’s. 
 
Want to learn more about a neighboring state’s efforts? Check out an article in the Indianapolis Star: click here.
 
No one should allow one button to do all the thinking.
 
Now, tell me what you think! Take the Another Voice survey: Click Here.
For more of Ken Rechtin's Another Voice, click here.
 
The views and opinions expressed here in “Another Voice” do not reflect the views or opinions of The River City News, its owners, writers, or editors. These are solely the ideas of Ken Rechtin. If you wish to make comment to Another Voice, Ken can be reached via email at [email protected] or you may leave a comment here. All rights to use of Another Voice in any fashion are retained by Ken Rechtin. Please contact him for any use of his columns.