N.C. Sen. Buck Newton wants people to vote for candidates, not their party labels.
Newton, R-Wilson, has re-introduced a bill that would eliminate the option of straight-party ticket voting in North Carolina.
“I feel very strongly that people should be voting for the person and not the party,” Newton said.
In North Carolina, voters have the option of casting one vote for a particular party’s nominees in all offices except the president and vice president. Judges are not included in the straight-party vote because judicial elections are nonpartisan in North Carolina.
Voters who use the straight-party option still can make an exception by voting for a candidate who is not nominated by that party.
The bill Newton proposed would do away with straight-party voting starting in January.
Newton sponsored a bill to do away with straight-party ticket voting in 2011. He said he is optimistic the bill will have more success this time around.
“I believe that the public feels more strongly than ever about the need to reform some of our election laws,” Newton said.
He said he also believes that having a stronger Republican majority in the N.C. General Assembly and a new governor will improve opportunities for the bill to become law.
Newton said his opinion about straight-party voting has not been changed, based on the elections he has been involved with.
During the November 2012 election, Newton’s Democratic challenger, Clarence Bender, was arrested on charges of trafficking heroin. Democratic officials still encouraged people to vote for Bender.
Many voters took advantage of the straight- party ticket option in North Carolina during the November 2012 election. More than 2.5 million North Carolinians cast straight-party ballots, which is more than half of the total 4.5 million ballots cast in the state, according to results from the N.C. State Board of Elections. The straight-party ticket total included more than 1.4 million Democrats, more than 1.1 million Republicans and 25,146 Libertarians.
N.C. Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, said the bill to eliminate the straight-party ticket option is another example of the Republican Party putting its energy into trying to suppress the Democratic vote.
“Instead of focusing on promoting policies that will get them the votes they need to win, they want to suppress the vote of people who would disagree with them,” Bryant said.
The bill could be especially harmful for black voters, who make up one of the most loyal Democratic voting blocks, Bryant said.
“That method of voting is a method that is very important to the African-American community, and is one of the strategies that makes our voting most effective,” Bryant said.
People vote for individuals as well as party labels, Bryant said. She said political party affiliation helps voters know what policies candidates support.
“That helps people understand the individual,” Bryant said.
Candidates who stand apart from those labels make sure voters know, Bryant said.
Newton said that under the proposed bill, candidates still would be identified on the ballot by their political parties if they are running in partisan races. Therefore, if party labels help voters make a decision, they still would be able to see how candidates are affiliated, Newton said.
“I just think that common sense says, and that most people agree, that you should vote for the best candidate, not necessarily what their party label is,” Newton said. “I think that affects Republicans as much as it affects Democrats.”
N.C. Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, also is a sponsor of the bill to eliminate straight party voting. The bill, which was filed earlier this month, has been referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the N.C. Senate.