Free the Vote NC calls for an end to straight-party voting

Eliminating straight-party voting will be a step toward ending the two-party duopoly that controls North Carolina’s electoral process and discriminates against alternative parties and independent candidates, a spokesman for Free the Vote North Carolina said in a statement today.

“The straight-party voting system tends to perpetuate this cycle of individuals going to the polls and casting votes based simply on party label in the hopes of voting for someone that shares their common values,” said Jordon Greene, founder and president of Free the Vote NC.

Two bills ending straight-party voting have been introduced in the General Assembly. Free the Votes opposes one, HB185 and supports the other, SB82.

“Straight-party voting encourages uneducated voting and demeans the value of the individual’s vote,” Greene said. “The manner in which the device is used in North Carolina also is confusing to voters, since it doesn’t apply to the presidential race.”

He said that ending straight-party voting wouldn’t necessarily make people educate themselves, but he believes they would be more likely to do so.

Free the Vote supports SB82 because it’s “simple and straightforward.” On the other hand, Jordon called HB185 a “sad joke, at best.”

In addition to ending straight-party voting, HB185 would also change the way parties and candidates are listed on the ballot.

“While it claims to ‘provide fairness in placement of parties on the ballot,’ it does nothing of the sort.” Jordon asserted. “There’s absolutely nothing about this bill that would provide fairness in ballot placement.”

Jordon said that North Carolina already heavily discriminates against alternative parties and unaffiliated candidates by making it very difficult for them to get on the ballot in the first place.

“HB185 does nothing to change that; in fact, it exacerbates the problem,” he said. He pointed out that while current law says political parties to be listed on the ballot in alphabetical order, it mandates that the Democrats and Republicans be listed first, then other parties. Independent candidates are always listed last.

“The current method for determining the order of candidate on the ballot is dismal at best,” he noted, “and since being higher on the ballot does matter, North Carolina law, beyond its unusually discriminatory ballot access laws, disadvantages alternative political parties and independent candidates by enshrining in law that they will always appear last on the ballot.”

Rather than reform ballot access, HB185 would reinforce the preferential treatment given to the Democrats and Republicans by listing whichever one of them won the last governor’s race first, he said. Jordon also criticized the bill for using making an “irrational change to the common definition of alphabetical order.” It would start with the whatever the first letter in the current governor’s last name is instead of A.

“It makes little sense to do this,” he said. “That is, it only makes sense if the purpose is to grant a special benefit to the major party that won the governor’s mansion last, and maintain the preferential treatment the two majors parties already enjoy.”

The fairest and easiest way to list parties and candidates on the ballot would be in random order, Jordon said, rather than using a system that favors one party over another, or sets classes of parties as the current law does.

“Rather than passing HB185 as written, the General Assembly should enact SB82. This is a simple, straightforward bill that would eliminate straight-party voting. We commend Senators E.S. (Buck) Newton (R-11) and Thom Goolsby (R-9) for introducing it.”

Free the Vote North Carolina wants to eliminate barriers to participation in the electoral process. This includes laws that restrict or limit the right of citizens to vote for the person of their choice, to have their have their vote counted, and to to run for elective office. They also want to end limitations on how political parties organize and operate, and ensure all are treated equally under the law.

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