Bill would eliminate voting for only one political party in Utah

Posted at 5:06 PM, Jan 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-08 00:07:32-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah State Legislature will be deciding whether to eliminate "straight-ticket" voting, where you can choose to only vote for candidates from one political party on an entire ballot.

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, is sponsoring a bill that would end that, calling it "outdated."

"They can still go through the ballot and vote for every Republican, every Green Party and every Democrat," she told FOX 13. "But they're going to have to look at every single name to do that."

Rep. Arent claims straight-ticket voting causes confusion for voters and some key issues get skipped because they're not tied to a party affiliation.

"People thought they voted for everyone on the ballot, but they missed the judges, the non-partisan races such as council races, they missed propositions, constitutional amendments," she said.

Utah is one of only nine states that still allows straight-ticket voting. The others are: Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.

Election data from the Utah Lt. Governor's office revealed 33-percent of all votes cast in the 2014 general election were straight ticket. More than 63-percent of statewide straight-ticket votes were Republican; almost 33-percent were Democrat. In Salt Lake County, data shows that Democrats benefited more from a straight-ticket vote (50-percent to the GOP's 46-percent).

"We support straight-party voting," Utah GOP chairman James Evans told FOX 13 on Thursday. "I happen to believe voters are educated and I don't support removing an option from the voter. If a voter wants to vote straight party because they believe a candidate represents their values, they should be able to do that."

The Utah Democratic Party said it supports Arent's bill.

"Utah Democrats support measures that allow more Utahns to become active participants in our democratic process, including Representative Arent's proposal to eliminate straight-ticket voting. This law would strengthen Utah's political system by encouraging voters to research candidates and issues," said party chairman Peter Corroon. "We want Utahns to be educated voters, to understand who they're voting for, and to consider candidates from all parties. And contrary to what some may think, voter turnout is actually higher each year in states that do not allow straight party voting."

Arent has a Republican co-sponsor of her bill, Rep. Jeremy Peterson of Ogden. She had previously run the legislation in 2013, but it did not pass.