Bill ending straight-ticket voting could go to House Tuesday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The bill that would end straight-ticket voting in West Virginia will get a final vote from the state Senate Tuesday before moving to the state House of Delegates for consideration during the ongoing Regular Legislative Session.

George Carenbauer, a former state Democratic Party chair, said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline” it’s long past time for the change.

“I’m all in favor of things that make it easier and more accessible for people to vote, but I also think the voter has a responsibility to really know what he or she is doing when they go into the voting booth,” he said.

With straight-ticket voting, a voter can make one mark, either electronically or on a paper ballot, and vote for a party’s full list of candidates. The change would require voters to consider each race individually.

Democrats have long pushed back against eliminating straight-ticket voting in West Virginia because of the Democratic advantage in party registrations. Last November, though, unofficial numbers from the Secretary of State’s Office showed 56 percent of straight-ticket ballots were Republican.

“This is really a good time to get rid of a practice that, on its merits, is not good,” Carenbauer said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, West Virginia is one of 11 states still offering straight-ticket voting, also called straight-party voting. The others are Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

Straight-ticket voting has been declining in popularity nationally during the last decade. Rhode Island was the latest to eliminate the option with legislation that took effect last month.

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