Iowa is one of 16 states which allow voters to choose a single party’s entire slate of candidates. It’s called “straight ticket” voting.
Eighty-three-year-old Clifford Matta of Fort Madison has cast a “straight ticket” in every election since he was eligible to vote. “I want the Democrats to win,” Matta said recently, laughing. “Oh, yeah — I won’t miss a vote.”
Matta’s 79-year-old wife, Arleen, is a straight-ticket voter, too. “My dad was such a Democrat and he says, ‘And you only vote straight,'” Arleen Matta said in mid-October, after the couple had voted early. “I used to not, because I knew some people, but after he had a talk with me, I started (to vote a straight Democratic ticket).”
Sixty-five-year-old Mary Bowman of Cedar Rapids has been a “straight ticket” Republican voter in every election since 1968, with just one exception. She’s already cast a “straight ticket” vote in 2010 through the state’s early voting process.
“When you believe in the principle of the party, then you have to vote that way because the leadership is developed from who is elected and if you want that leadership, with those principles, you have to vote the straight ticket,” Bowman said last week at a G.O.P. rally in Cedar Rapids.
Bowman thinks there’ll be more “straight ticket” voting for Republicans this year, to send a message to Democrats. But last week Matt Strawn, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, said the G.O.P. wouldn’t make a concerted pitch about it.
“Not any explicit effort. You know, anecdotally, you know, of course we’re hearing more from our county offices that people are talking more about voting a straight Republican ticket just to send a message across the board,” Strawn said last Tuesday. “But, you know, I think we’re letting our candidates speak for themselves and I’m confident with the team we have, people are going to feel confident voting for each and every one of the Republicans on the ticket.”
Today, however, the Iowa GOPn has posted a video on its website, urging Iowans to vote a “straight Republican ticket” tomorrow. A spokeswoman for the party says the decision to press that message was made over the weekend.
Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky hasn’t been making a “straight ticket” pitch, although she’s been asking Democrats to stand together as a “sea wall” against the threat of a Republican wave. “What an honor and what a privilege it is to be a Democrat this year,” Dvorsky said recently in Ames. “Don’t let them tell you that what we are going and what we have done and what we will do doesn’t have meaning.”
Wisconsin is the only neighboring state which still allows “straight ticket” voting. Illinois abolished “straight ticket” voting in 1997 and Missouri got rid of it in 2007.
The polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning and close at nine o’clock tomorrow night. Go to www.iowavotes.org to find your precinct polling place, as polling stations may have shifted since the last election.
Those who vote “straight ticket” are casting a vote for each of the candidates who are running under the banner of a single party. That “straight ticket” vote does not translate down the ballot to local nonpartisan races, not does it count for other ballot decisions, like the judicial retention elections, so “straight ticket” voters have to check those boxes on the other part of the ballot.
(This story was updated at 1:45 p.m. after the Iowa GOP launched its new “straight ticket” effort.)