November 16, 2006

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Manchester Publisher's Note: Straight tickets have got to go
By†Jody Reese

First, New Hampshire goes for Democrat John Kerry over Republican President George Bush in 2004, and now every arm of government ó short the courts ó has gone blue.

This weekís cover story, starting on page 14, looks at why the state went blue this year, and connects the landslide to the gradual blueing of the state over the past decade. In Manchester, the state delegation of 35 representatives is overwhelmingly blue with only six elected from the Republican party.

Itís clear that many voters were just tired of the red state of government and voted a straight Democratic ticket. The result was a tidal wave that gave Democrats winning many seats they didnít expect to win. In Manchester, one Democratic state representative, who won, wants nothing to do with her new job. She says she was assured that she would not win and that the party just needed her to fill out the ticket. She actively did not campaign. In the executive councilís District 2, incumbent Peter Spaulding, a Republican who had the support of Democratic Governor John Lynch, was defeated by Democrat John Shea, who says he didnít campaign. Shea was so convinced he had no chance of victory he left for a European vacation, missing his own victory speech.

It seems this year a piece of toast could have been elected to state government if it was a Democrat.

Thatís why it is so unusual to see Democratic state chairwoman Kathy Sullivan pushing to eliminate straight party ticket voting. Thatís right. The very device that is most responsible for her partyís wave of victory might be one of the first things the Democrats get rid of.

And itís about time.

Itís the Republicans in this state who have always thought straight-ticket voting helps them. This time, it came around and bit them.

Perhaps now with their loss, they will see the folly of straight-ticket voting. We elect people to office, not parties. Sure, parties are a part of the process. They organize and, in some ways, present a set of policy priorities but they do not represent people. They can not. Itís your local state representative, state senator, executive councilor and governor who represent you, the voter, not a group of party people in a back room somewhere deciding how government is run.

Taking away the choice of straight-ticket voting wonít prevent people from voting all red or blue. It just will take a little longer. It might also mean that candidates become more important and thatís a good thing.

Itíll never happen, but after getting rid of straight-ticket voting the next step should be a move to statewide non-partisan elections, like Manchesterís.

With more registered independents than either Republicans or Democrats, itís clear that a great many New Hampshire voters have already chosen to be non-partisan. Why canít their leaders join them?

Elections shouldnít be about a blue or red guy winning, but us, the voters, choosing the right man or woman for the job. Eliminating parties for the ballot will help accomplish that.