Freshman House Democrat wants to do away with straight-ticket voting

01/20/2017 03:20 PM

After a brutal election cycle for House Democrats that saw them lose control of the lower chamber for the first time since 1921, a freshman Democrat has filed a bill to eliminate straight-ticket voting in Kentucky general elections.

But the 2016 election cycle isn’t the impetus for Rep. John Sims’ House Bill 157. He says the issue has been on his radar since he became a magistrate in Fleming County in 2010.

“I believe people need to know who they’re voting for, personal than just the party, and that’s the reason I did the bill,” Sims, D-Flemingsburg, told Pure Politics in a phone interview Friday.

House Republicans won 17 seats en route to a 64-36 supermajority, propelled in part by President Donald Trump’s overwhelming victory over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, an unpopular figure in Kentucky.

Democrats still hold a voter registration advantage over Republicans in Kentucky by more than 340,000, but the number of straight-ticket GOP voters in the 2016 elections outpaced such Democratic voters by 117,006, with 529,305 voting Republican and 412,299 voting Democrat, according to data provided by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ office.

Kentucky is one of 10 states that allow straight-ticket voting, and Sims says he’s unsure how HB 157 will fare in the House.

Since he filed the legislation on Jan. 7, the last day of the 30-day session until lawmakers reconvene Feb. 7, Sims says he hasn’t had an opportunity to gauge support for the bill.

“I just put it out there, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

But Tres Watson, spokesman for the Republican Party of Kentucky, says he doesn’t expect the bill to go very far.

“From the voters I’ve talked to, the representatives I’ve talked to, I don’t believe there’s any appetite nor is there any sort of public groundswell that believes such legislation is needed,” he said in a phone interview Friday.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.