straight party voting
(Mike Allen)

Straight party voting is a feature of Oklahoma’s electoral process that many people would like to see eliminated — many people who are not Republican elected officials, of course. Currently, many Oklahomans mark a “straight party” designation at the top of their ballots, just as they have for many decades. The main difference now, however, is which party holds the dominant advantage in party allegiance.

For this year’s general election, more than 481,000 Oklahomans selected a “straight party” ticket, which means they did not cast selections for individual races, except for judicial positions. Of the 481,000 Oklahomans who chose the convenience of marking one line at the top of their ballots instead of more than a dozen lines across the full ballot, nearly 70 percent were Republicans and about 29 percent were Democrats. That accounted for about 41.7 percent of all votes cast Nov. 8.

In 2020, about 45.5 percent of voters utilized straight party voting. In 2018, about 40 percent of electoral participants voted straight party. The year before that, the rate was closer to 34 percent. That means, in Oklahoma’s gubernatorial elections, the straight party voting trend has been increasing.

As a casual observer, it certainly seems that straight party voting requires less thought, effort, time and physical activity. It always has, and it always will, until the ballot option is eliminated. With last week’s election results heavily favoring Republicans — who control the Legislature — straight party voting likely will not be repealed any time soon, unless there someone pursues a citizen-led petition.

As you might predict, the way these things work is that what used to be good for one party is now good for the other. I am told that vague recollection around the Oklahoma State Capitol holds that, 30 or 40 years ago, when Republicans were in the minority and pushing to eliminate straight party voting, some members of the Democratic majority argued that the option was important for seniors who might be frail and frustrated by a long ballot. I’m not sure what argument Republican politicians make now to defend the practice, but I’m sure it’s just as self-interested.

Oklahoma, of course, is one of only six states in the country that has retained straight party voting this long. If only filling out ballots were as fun as attending a kegger, it might spur more people to oppose straight party voting.

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