Local Politics

Straight-party voters could miss out on presidential election

Posted October 31, 2008 6:48 p.m. EDT
Updated October 31, 2008 8:33 p.m. EDT

— 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.