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Washington • Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, wants to get rid of straight-party voting in federal elections, a move that could help him as well as other vulnerable Democrats and Republicans across the country.
Matheson introduced legislation this week that would bar states including Utah from allowing voters to choose one party instead of selecting individual candidates in House, Senate and presidential elections. The bill wouldn't affect local and state races.
Nearly 258,000 Utahns cast straight Republican Party votes last year as opposed to some 111,000 who voted straight ticket for the Democrats. Selecting one or the other allows a voter to back all candidates aligned with a party on the ticket.
"Everywhere I go, people tell me how frustrated they are with the partisan bickering that overwhelms our politics today," Matheson said. "This legislation is one step we can take to reduce the role of parties in our elections and encourage everyone to vote for candidates for each federal office by voting the person, not the party."
It could also help Matheson, a conservative Democrat who has beaten back GOP challenges seven times and over two rounds of redistricting. Matheson's new Fourth Congressional District is majority Republican.
Matheson's co-sponsor is Rep. Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican who also represents a majority Democratic district. Matheson and Dent note that their bill will also help ensure voters pay attention to ballot initiatives and judicial questions often found further down the ticket.
Only 15 states in the country allow straight-party voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Meanwhile Tuesday, the Democrats and Republicans began angling for the 2014 House elections, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee naming Matheson to its "Frontline" program.
"These battle-tested men and women have proven time and again that they can win because no one better reflects the values of their districts," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.
The National Republican Congressional Committee shot back that it appeared the Democrats were already expecting Matheson to lose.
"Just a few months into the 113th Congress and national Democrats are already managing expectations for 2014 losses," said NRCC spokeswoman Alleigh Marré.