This week, Georgia made history in one of the best ways possible. Despite numerous efforts to disenfranchise voter turnout, both Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were both victorious in their respective runoff elections. This will allow Georgia to have two Democratic Senators for the first time in the state’s history. As a Black man, I am inspired. However as an Alabamian, I am honestly frustrated. Georgia and Alabama are very similar when it comes to racial makeup, conservative leadership, and even social justice efforts. Where Selma, Montgomery, and Birmingham lead the charge for change in Alabama is where we see Atlanta and Columbus for the state of Georgia. So what is the difference? Why after all of these years, was Georgia finally able to do what Alabama still has struggled to do for years? Was it the valiant efforts of organizations such as Fair Fight, Black Voters Matter, and Wilson Brand? Of course! However, Alabama has the same resources. Even so, to where the entire Democratic party has done a complete makeover. So why have we not been successful? There are numerous answers to this question, but the significant answer will always be straight-ticket voting (STV).
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) defines straight-ticket voting (also called straight-party voting) as the method that allows voters to choose a party’s entire slate of candidates with just a single ballot mark. According to the NCSL, voters make one mark or selection on the ballot in order to vote for every candidate of that party for each partisan office on the ballot. This can either significantly help a party or harm a party. As of the 2020 Presidential Election, only 6 states offer straight-ticket voting as an option. With a few exceptions, the straight-ticket option was available in all general elections, and applies to all partisan offices on the ticket, including federal, state and local races. Those states with some form of STV are Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Alabama.
Now, there was a time in history when there was a place for STV. Sometime before the 1960s, STV was a popular model for Democrats, however, statistics have shown that STV largely benefits the Republican party. In the state of Alabama, over 51% of its population vote by a straight ticket. When you dive deeper and dissect that number from the low voter turnout from voter suppression and other tactics used against Black and Brown residents, that can almost be a recipe for a political disaster for the Alabama Democrats or any other party that goes against the Republican party. It is truly disheartening, because most Alabama citizens “Block-vote”. That means that they have already decided who they’re going to vote or how they are going to vote early in the election cycle. Most of these voters simply plan to vote a straight ticket, without even realizing who they are voting for. I stated earlier that STV is not the only reason, but it is definitely a major reason why we continue elect incompetent people to office such as Kay Ivey and Tommy Tuberville. I challenge all of my fellow Alabamians to begin calling their state-elected officials charging them to finally put an end of straight-ticket voting. There is still much work to do, but there is no better starting place than here. We have accepted mediocrity long enough. Alabama deserves better, it’s time we start to fight for it.
Information about straight-ticket voting found by clicking here.