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posted: 1/19/2015 3:05 PM

GOP-backed bill would end straight-ticket voting option

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Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Straight party-line voting with one click or mark of an election ballot would be eliminated under a bill being backed by Republican leaders in the Indiana House.

The proposal would allow only votes for candidates for each specific office on the ballot. They still would be identified by their party affiliations.

Bill sponsor Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion, said he believed the change was a needed update to Indiana's voting method.

"As we revolutionize elections and technology continues to creep into the way we campaign and the information available to voters, it's clear folks are looking at candidates rather than party affiliation," he told The Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/1B8AF8Y ). "We don't put donkeys and elephants on our signs anymore."

Only 12 states allow or offer straight-ticket voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The practice has been declining in availability over the past decade.

Allen County Republican Chairman Steve Shine said voters shouldn't have the straight-ticket option taken away and that such a change could lead to longer lines at polling places.

"In some obscure races, voters might not be familiar with candidates, and the party affiliation gives the voter a general sense of values," Shine said.

Statewide data on straight-ticket voting across the state isn't available because Indiana election law doesn't require counties to report it.

In the 2012 presidential election, Allen County, which includes Fort Wayne, saw 22 percent of the votes cast, or 32,999, as straight-ticket Republican ballots and 17 percent, or 25,062, cast as straight-ticket Democratic ballots.

But in Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, the number of Democratic straight-ticket ballots almost doubled Republicans in 2012, 136,286 to 71,101. Those made up about 57 percent of all Marion County ballots cast.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said GOP and Democratic leaders at different times have opposed and supported straight-ticket voting.

"We think it best that voters are informed and vote for the person and don't just check a box," Bosma said. "We'll see. It'll be a long discussion for both parties in both chambers."

Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, has served on the House Elections Committee for several years and doesn't remember the topic coming up before.

"I would have to do an analysis," he said. "I'm not sure how it hurts one party or the other."

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Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net

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