EDITORIAL: 'One-punch' voting dumbs down elections

Staff report
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signs the main appropriations bill in a $34 billion budget package that passed the Legislature this week at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

It's all about power — Gov. Tom Wolf included.

Pundits and the Twitterverse showered Wolf in praise earlier this month after Democrat vetoed a bill that would have provided $90 million for secure voting machines.

Wolf didn't oppose the cash, mind you. Secure voting machines are one of his pet projects, and he's the one who imposed the mandate on counties requiring new machines by the 2020 General Election in the first place.

No, it was the GOP-run Legislature's poison pill that propelled Wolf's veto pen. Republicans seized on the opportunity and included a provision that would have killed straight-ticket voting, a longtime goal of the Pennsylvania Republican Party.

Wolf's veto was met with praise about his supposed defense of voting rights. Liberal pundits waxed poetic about how straight-ticket voting made life easier on inner-city black communities, where straight-ticket is especially popular.

Wolf, himself, talked about the GOP effort would result in long lines at the polls and "confusion."


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Just nine states allow straight-ticket voting. Popular a century ago, the pro-party "one-punch" ballot has fallen out of favor in recent decades. 

If Wolf and his extollers are to be believed, nearly the entire country runs tainted elections, including the liberal bastions of California, New York and Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania stands alongside Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas — all of which tout straight-ticket ballots and are notorious for targeted voter suppression efforts. 

No, the reason straight-ticket still exists in handful states is because it benefits the dominant party, in most cases the GOP. But Pennsylvania's urban demographics, particularly in Philadelphia, mean Democrats have something to lose here.

And, thanks to straight-ticket's popularity in the inner-city — it's boon for Wolf's party and a detriment to the state GOP.

Wolf's veto wasn't some high-minded defense against yet another right wing attack on voting rights. His veto didn't solve gerrymandering or squishy campaign finance laws.

Wolf simply defended his party's interests.

And, at some level, that's OK, too. It's standard procedure among the elected class.

But straight-ticket's detractor are correct: It's a process that infatilizes voters and promotes party loyalty over an informed choice.

Republicans made a move that would have strengthened their party's position. Wolf struck back and reinforced urban Democrats with his veto. And now, the two sides are bickering over how to legally fund new voting machines.

It's all politics: Nothing more, nothing less.