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Bill could ban straight-party ticket voting in NC

Voters heading to the polls next November might be forced to take a closer look at their ballots if an N.C. General Assembly bill becomes law.

House Bill 185, filed Feb. 28 and currently in the House elections committee, would ban straight-party ticket voting in the state.

Proponents of the bill say it would lead to a more educated voting base — but critics counter that it would pose problems on election day.

“The underlying reason for this bill is to hopefully create a more informed electorate when it comes to choosing candidates,” said Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Camden, who sponsored the bill.

With the current system, voters can choose a single party by marking either a Republican or Democrat box.

This one vote covers a range of offices, from Congress members to the governor and state legislators.

Steinburg said he hoped the bill would encourage voters to take the initiative to research candidates.

“I’m more concerned with them having an informed vote as opposed to a quick vote,” he said. “In my particular district, I benefit from straight-party voting, but I believe it’s wrong.”

But Bob Hall, executive director for the voter advocacy group Democracy North Carolina, said the bill might not lead to more knowledgeable voters.

“Party labels do mean something ­­— they’re a relevant indicator,” he said.

Hall said the proposed bill would make the ballot list longer, which could complicate the voting process.

“They’re two pages and 17 inches long,” Hall said. “They’d have to add more polling stations to process people.”

But Rep. Debra Conrad, R-Forsyth, who also sponsored the bill, said it would grant voters more choices and benefit the state.

“It seems to me that increased awareness, coupled with the importance of democracy, is worth the extra time to focus on the choices for each race,” she said.

Still, Kelli Gibson, a junior history major, said not being able to vote for a straight-party ticket might not affect her party allegiances.

“People know their core values, so I don’t think most people would research more,” she said.

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