Local Politics

Straight-party voters could miss out on presidential election

Posted October 31, 2008

— Some analysts fear that thousands of voters might miss out on picking the next president when they choose the bubble to vote for a straight-party ticket on the North Carolina ballot.

Being able to vote a straight-party ticket for all non-presidential and non-judicial races has been part of North Carolina elections since the 1960s.

The feature caught the attention of presidential candidates this year.

"You have to vote in two steps: one for president and one for the rest of the ticket," Democratic nominee Barack Obama told his supporters at a rally in downtown rally last Wednesday.

Those instructions are on a sheet of paper handed out to voters at polling places. Actually, Obama left out a step for voters who want a say in picking judges. They must mark two separate places to vote for president and a straight-party ticket, and then vote separately for judges, whose races are nonpartisan.

Despite those instructions, the Wake County Board of Elections said they have gotten calls from voters who realized their mistake later.

"We've had some calls afterwards, 'I didn't realize, and can I go vote again?'" Cherie Poucher, Wake County's elections director said. "Well, unfortunately, you can't go vote again."

Christine Grant said she voted separately for president and a straight ticket – but was surprised to learn, afterward, that the nonpartisan races required separate votes.

"I did fill in some, but not all. But I thought it was still part of the straight-party vote," Grant said.

Grant laughingly said that voters need a Ph.D. to figure out the ballot and then added, "Yeah, I have a Ph.D."

Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan election watchdog group, has also gotten calls from people who realized they missed out when they only voted straight ticket, Bob Hall, the group's executive director, said.

"It may be 10 people. It may be 10,000 people," Hall said. "If this is a very close race, I'm sure that this issue of the straight-party ticket is going to be a point of contention."

Ultimately, Hall said, it will be necessary to change the policy of straight-ticket voting in North Carolina.

In the meantime, election officials said, the best advice on voting can be found on the instruction sheets at the ballot booth.

"We do hope that everybody takes the time to read the instructions," Poucher said.


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  • dlb800 Nov 3, 2008

    Look, if you can't read the instructions, then maybe you shouldn't be voting.

    (and also if you decide to have children, think twice!!)

  • ridgerunner Nov 3, 2008

    I do not have a PHD but I can dig a post hole and keep the sides straight. If a person cannot follow the instructions on the ballot they have no grounds to complain. Also thre is no valid reason for ballots to be printed in any language but English as only citizens can legally vote. To become a citizen reading, writing, and understanding English is required and a natural born citizen should learn this in the schools provided by taxpayers money.

  • unaffiliated_voter Oct 31, 2008

    "maybe one of you folks can explain why NC is one of only two states that haved this split process"

    I don't know for sure why, but I have a guess. I suspect that at whatever time this rule was made, the party in power thought that it would benefit them. I think there are way too many cases where what's good for the party trumps what's good for the people or what's fair.

    I sure wish ALL races were non-partisan races. Then we'd stand a better chance of having the elected officials do what's best for their constituents and the state or country rather than having the party as the #1 priority as it seems to be now.

    But since banning parties would likely be unconstitutional, a suitable alternative in my view would be to have so many parties that it would take members of several parties to agree to something to get it passed. That should also limit the number of laws passed purely to benefit one party and/or it's big donors.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Oct 31, 2008

    "Instead of making comments about people's ethnicity and their lack of education,..."

    Say what you want, but its true.

    "...maybe one of you folks can explain why NC is one of only two states that haved this split process?"

    This is basically the same argument made for testing in schools. Where they say the tests are racially biased.

    Look at the stats after the election. I guarantee you my previous predictions will hold true.

  • PaulRevere Oct 31, 2008

    This will surely be the lawsuit filed by Axelrod's boy when Obama loses. "MY VOTERS DIDN'T KNOW! WE DEMAND A DO-OVER! NO JUSTICE NO PEACE!"

  • seankelly15 Oct 31, 2008

    Instead of making comments about people's ethnicity and their lack of education, maybe one of you folks can explain why NC is one of only two states that haved this split process?

  • gorgon01 Oct 31, 2008

    The funniest part is that the volunteers at the polling places TELL YOU THAT BEFORE YOU VOTE....duh. People don't ever listen or read directions

  • tsquaring Oct 31, 2008

    They're not missing much...

  • winchester73 Oct 31, 2008

    The poll worker handed me the ballot clearly explained that the straight party voting option wouldn't tally for the presidential choice, nor for the non-partisan choices.

    Hmmm, go figure that you couldn't vote straight party for non-partisan races.

    That said, I can't imagine voting straight party ... I've never found that one party always has the best candidates in EVERY race. It seems the lazy way out to me.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Oct 31, 2008

    colliedave: "And people this stupid vote?"

    Actually, you danced all around the answer with your comment above. The most likely voter, to make this mistake, is a voter that hasn't regularly voted in the past. And the largest percentage of voters, that will make this mistake, are Obama voters. And a large percentage of these mistakes will be made by African-Americans. The reason... there will be many African-American people, who vote this election, that haven't ever voted regularly. Simply because they finally have an African-American on the Presidential ballot to vote for. And most of these African-Americans won't have a very in-depth education. Therefore, the most votes lost, because of this issue, will be lost by Obama. So this issue is really an Obama issue. Very little affect on McCain. Actually probably helps McCain.