@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

NC Senate strikes straight-party voting

Posted June 7, 2011 9:57 p.m. EDT
Updated June 8, 2011 7:26 a.m. EDT

The state Senate voted on straight party lines tonight to forbid NC voters from doing the same thing.

Senate Bill 411 would repeal the law that allows voters entering the ballot box to choose to vote for all the candidates in one party or the other.  About 40% of voters in NC use this option. 

Voters who choose a straight-ticket ballot can go through their ballot and change their votes to the other party's candidate on as many races as they want.

The bill's Republican sponsors call S411 the "Vote for the Person, Not the Party" Act.  They say the intent is to encourage thoughtful voting and to get more people to vote in non-partisan races that straight-ticket voters sometimes miss.

But Democrats say the real goal is to discourage people from voting. They argue that removing the straight-ticket option will slow voting down, leading to longer lines at polling places on Election Day.   

Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg, accused Republicans of trying to make voting more difficult. "Yes, politics is a contact sport. Yes, there’s winners and losers, but at some point, we’ve got to stop and do what is right for all people, regardless of political affiliation," he said. "Why are we erecting barriers? Even you guys are better than that.”

Bill sponsor Sen. Buck Newton (R-Nash) argued that Graham's "imagination" was working overtime. And Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, insisted Republicans are doing nothing to disenfranchise voters. 

"This bill will allow the voters to choose the person of their choice, regardless of party. This gives them that opportunity," Rucho said. "They don’t have to be just slaves to the system."  

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, pressed Rucho on whether voters could already do that under current law. 

"Of course they can," Rucho conceded. 

S411 passed 31-19 this evening and is scheduled for a final Senate vote Wednesday.