Three years ago, an effort to end straight-ticket voting in Utah was defeated in the House Government Operations Committee, falling by a 4-3 vote. That bill’s sponsor, Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake City is trying again this year with House Bill 119, Straight Ticket Voting Amendments. And the bill will return to the same committee that once killed it. On Tuesday, Feb. 2, the House Government Operations Committee will decide if the latest effort to end straight-ticket voting makes it to the floor. And Arent has a Republican co-sponsor to help move it forward. Rep. Jeremy Peterson, R-Ogden says he’s working to persuade colleagues to support HB119. “The committee members individually have been very receptive to the reasons for bringing this issue forward. I look forward to making the case at the committee meeting,” Peterson said.
Straight-ticket voting allows an individual to vote once to elect the entire slate of a party’s candidates. Utah is one of nine states that allow straight-ticket voting. According to Utah Political Capitol, an online newsletter, 33 percent of Utah voters chose straight ticket in 2014, and 37 percent in 2012. HB119 reads in part: “… a voter who desires to cast a vote for all candidates from one political party must vote separately for each candidate from that political party …”
“The problem with voting straight ticket is that it causes a lot of confusion,” Arent said. She’s heard from constituents who don’t realize that they need to vote in non-partisan races or ballot initiatives. That causes an individual’s vote to count for much less than it should.
Arent is also optimistic the bill will pass committee, arguing that straight-ticket voting is a relic from the past that Utah should get rid of. “None of the Western states have straight-ticket voting (anymore),” she said, adding that Michigan, under a Republican-sponsored bill, was the latest to end the practice.