In Michigan, straight-party voting is your legal right. Does that make a good decision?
As Grace Gruebmeyer (Emory Wheel) editorializes: “Unforeseen consequences of straight-party voting … based solely on a candidate’s declared political affiliation, can polarize … government. Too often, voters mistakenly assume that ideological values apply to all levels of government.”
While straight-party voting reduces your time at the polls, making voting easy should not make it mindless. Instead of encouraging voters to learn about the candidates and where they stand on issues, straight-party voting makes the false assumption that all Democrats and all Republicans are pretty much the same. At the local level, where teamwork, good decision-making, and fiscal responsibility are paramount concerns, nothing could be further from the truth.
Elections in Clare County have become more polarized, less competitive, and accountability suffers without competition. Case in point: On the Hayes Township November ballot, nine countywide partisan elected offices were decided as a result of the August primary. Of the nine positions (clerk, sheriff, prosecuting attorney, treasurer, road commissioners and county commissioners), all of the candidates represent one political party and all are running unopposed in November. Similarly, this situation exists in many of our townships.
In addition, the Clare County Board fo Commissioners has been dominated by elected officials from the same party for several years while overseeing a declining financial situation that has negatively affected every department. This year, several of the open positions created by retirements and primary elections will once again be filled by unopposed candidates from the same party. Does more of the same make sense?
Straight-party voting has led to Clare County elections becoming “homogenized.” Candidates in Clare County and in our townships may, or may not, be competent. However, with only one candidate option per position, we have no choice. Imagine if your favorite sports team played games only among themselves. There would be no way to evaluate competency and without competition, there is very little accountability.
The best candidate will do the best job. Doing your research, asking questions, and pausing to at least consider each race individually – regardless of political affiliation – should lead to a more balanced, less polarized outcome.