WSW: Straight Ticket Voting, Presidential Candidate Endorsements and Ballot Proposals

Dec 7, 2015

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Credit Wisconsin Public Radio

When voters had the chance to eliminate straight ticket voting in Michigan over a decade ago, they overwhelmingly rejected it. Western Michigan University Political Science Professor John Clark says voters in Republican and Democratic leaning counties throughout the state seemed to view it as a bad idea. 

Clark says research seems to show that straight ticket voting benefits Democratic candidates. He says the fairly broad consensus among political scientists is that Democratic voters are less likely to vote for all candidates on the ballot. Clark says that could mean that without the straight-ticket option Republican candidates further down the ballot would be helped.

Lawmakers also approved the elimination of straight-ticket voting in 2001. But voters collected petition signatures to hold a referendum on the law in 2002. Clark says the overwhelming rejection of the change seems to indicate that voters of both parties like the convenience of straight ticket voting. But the bill approved by the state Senate includes an appropriation that makes the bill immune to voter referendum.

Another possible change is to allow “no reason” absentee ballot. Clark says that could potentially help Democratic candidates, who usually benefit from higher turnout. He says both political parties may be able to target voters who plan to vote absentee and make sure that their ballot is returned. 

Members of Michigan’s Congressional delegation are making their endorsements in the race for President. Clark says voters don’t automatically react to their representative in Congress backing a Presidential candidate. But he says it can be another piece of information for voters trying to differentiate candidates with similar views and similar campaign messages. West Michigan Congressman Fred Upton has yet to endorse anyone for President. Clark says the backing of Upton could help a candidate from the “establishment” wing of the party.

A number of groups have taken out petitions to put ballot issues before voters next year. Asked if those questions can influence other races, Clark says some issues may motivate voters. But he says Presidential election years, like 2016, usually have a high turnout anyway. Clark says supporters of some issues may be looking for a large group of voters to get their proposal passed.