As I promised yesterday, I would do my best to present some “good” bills offered by the 2013 Legislature and HB 185, The Ballot Reform Act of 2013 meets the requirements of a good election reform bill.
HB 185 would eliminate straight party voting and change the way parties are placed on General Election Ballots. The Primary Sponsors of the bill are Representatives Bert Jones (R-Rockingham), Susan Martin (R-Wilson), Debra Conrad (R-Forsyth) and Bob Steinburg (R-Chowan).
If this bill is enacted, official ballots in North Carolina would no longer contain any place that allows a voter to vote for the candidates of a party for more than one office with only one mark of the ballot. At this time only 15 states employ some form of straight party voting. At present, North Carolina provides for a straight party choice, but as is the case with most North Carolina election law, there is an exception to this rule. In North Carolina, a straight party vote does not include a vote for the President and Vice President of the United States, thus requiring voters to make separate selections for the President and Vice President and the straight party option. Even the very liberal Brennan Center for Justice called our straight party option a “ballot flaw” in 2008 and said it was “very confusing.” In North Carolina the Democratically controlled legislature instituted the this option when it became obvious that the state’s voters were voting for Republican presidential candidates.
This bill also changes the way candidates are placed on a ballot. HB 185 would have candidates of the same political party as the Governor take the top spot in all contests on the ballot instead of the Democratic candidate. They would be followed by the the candidates of the other parties (alphabetical order by party) and then the unaffiliated candidates.
In North Carolina, Democrats have always been placed first in the list of candidates in a contest on a General Election Ballot. Study after study has found that the first position in a contest is most advantageous. Click here to see a list of summaries of Ballot Placement Journal Articles. In the past, the Democrats in the legislature could point to the alphabet and call it luck that D came before L and R in the alphabet. But, they have been the majority in the legislature since 1898 and they took advantage of their majority and wrote and passed election laws that benefited their party. It would be refreshing to see future changes in election law benefit the voters of North Carolina and not just one political party.