One thing I believe with all my heart is every American citizen should fulfill their civic duty and vote in elections — whether it’s for a local race or a presidential campaign.

Since I was 18 years old, the only time I missed an election was when I moved from one state to another and didn’t make the deadline for registration. And when that happened, it was definitely tough for me to sit home on election day.

While I am passionate about the importance of voting, there is one thing about our current election system that makes me crazy — straight-ticket voting.

If you haven’t voted in a while, straight-ticket or straight-party voting is when you select an option to vote straight republican or straight democrat without actually looking at the entire ballot and voting for individual candidates.

In the new Pennsylvania voting system, the straight ticket option is the first thing you see on the screen.

In Tuesday’s election, more than 13,000 residents voted in Bradford County — and 5,972 decided to not look at the ballot and just voted for a party.

This has happened in every Pennsylvania election since I’ve been paying attention to politics — but it still made me shake my head when I saw the number of straight-party votes on Tuesday.

Fortunately, Gov. Tom Wolf recently signed a bill that will eliminate this option starting in 2020.

It’s great news that this awful voting option will be eliminated in Pennsylvania — by the way, New York already banned the practice. However, I wish states would take it a step further when it comes to local and county elections.

I just simply do not believe political parties should matter in local elections — and I would like to see them disappear from the ballot.

While I understand that we are in the most partisan of times when it comes to national politics, I don’t believe “local politicians” should run as part of a certain political party.

Does it really matter what political party our local borough council members or township supervisors belong to?

I’ve sat through plenty of local municipal meetings over the years, and I can honestly say I don’t know what party most of these “politicians” belong to.

I can also say that I have seen firsthand the work county commissioners have done to help our Valley communities — and I can point to members of both political parties who were doing the hard work on our behalf.

We should be voting for the men and women who are running for these local and county positions — not the political parties they happen to belong to.

The country may be more divided than ever when it comes to national politics, but I truly believe the people that choose to serve locally are not pushing any kind of agenda that is coming from Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi. They are just trying to make our communities stronger for us and for future generations.

Our local and county elections should be decided on the merits of the people running. Unfortunately, with the current system, it often times comes down to who had the D or R next to their name.

That is not how we should be choosing our local leaders.

Pat McDonald can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 228 or Follow Managing Editor Pat McDonald on Twitter @PatMcDonaldMT.

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