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Straight Ticket

Claim:   Voters need to be cautious when using "straight ticket" voting in the upcoming presidential election.

PARTLY TRUE

Examples:

[Collected via e-mail, July 2012]

ATTENTION! TO EVERYONE THAT'S VOTING IN THE NOVEMBER 2012 ELECTION!!

IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO VOTE A "STRAIGHT DEMOCRATIC TICKET" THIS NOVEMBER, BE SURE TO "PUNCH PRESIDENT OBAMA's NAME "FIRST" ON THE CARD, THEN PROCEED TO PUNCH "STRAIGHT DEMOCRATIC TICKET"! IF YOU DON'T PUNCH PRESIDENT OBAMA NAME FIRST ON THE TICKET, YOUR VOTE WILL BE VOIDED!!!!

PLEASE PASS THIS IMPORTANT INFORMATION ON TO ALL YOUR E-MAIL FRIENDS AND FAMILIES. I'M SURE THIS INFORMATION WILL NOT BE TOLD TO YOU AT THE POLLS THIS COMING NOVEMBER!!!!!!

GOD BLESS!
 

[Collected via e-mail, September 2008]

Just Passing this on...Make sure you do the same!!!!!!!!

For those who normally vote "Straight Democratic", please pay close attention!!!!! I was informed this weekend by a group of Obama volunteers that when voting for the presidential candidate this November, you have to make sure you punch Barack's name first, then proceed to punch "Straight Democratic" or else the vote for the president won't count. I'm not sure if any of you are aware of this, but we know they won't tell us this at the polls. Please make sure you inform others.
 

Origins:   We first encountered this warning about straight ticket voting a few months before the 2008 presidential election, and it reappeared in July 2012 in anticipation of that year's presidential election. The warning does have some merit to it, but it only applies to residents of a single state (North Carolina).

When casting their ballots in elections, some voters choose to select candidates individually regardless of party affiliation (i.e., they may vote for a Republican candidate for one office but a Democratic candidate for another office), while some
voters choose to go with what is known as a "straight ticket" (i.e., they cast their ballots for all the candidates of one party). The ballots in some states simplify the process of straight ticket voting (STV): Rather than having to vote for every candidate from a particular party individually, the voter can fill in a bubble, or punch a hole, or mark a box, or pull a lever that is indicated as casting votes for all candidates of a specified party in partisan offices.

The item quoted above warns voters that selecting the straight ticket option may not result in their casting a ballot for their party's presidential candidate because presidential selections have to be undertaken separately from the straight ticket voting process. Voting processes vary from region to region, and as far as we know this warning applies only to North Carolina, where straight ticket voting is available for all races except for presidential electors; voters in that state (regardless of party) therefore need to specifically select a presidential candidate in addition to voting a straight ticket.

As the Charlotte Observer cautioned readers back in 2008
Imagine you are a first time voter with a desire to vote straight party — to vote for all the candidates of a particular party. If you look at the official ballot that all [North Carolina] counties are set to use on Nov. 4, you'll find the following sentence: "A Straight Party vote is a vote for all candidates of that party in partisan offices. Individual partisan office selections are not necessary if you select a Straight Party below."

If you followed those directions, filled in the Democratic or Republican oval in the Straight Party Voting section and then left, you might think you'd just voted for president.

But you would be wrong.

On North Carolina's ballot, the presidential contest is not included in the list of "Partisan Offices." In order to cast a vote for president and a straight party vote, you need to make two marks — one in the presidential contest and the other in the straight party section. (And a straight-ticket vote does not cast a vote in judicial races, because those are nonpartisan.)

A state law passed in 1967 prohibits the combination of the vote for the president with any other office on the ballot.
The best advice to ensure your votes count as you intend is to study a sample ballot in advance, read the ballot and voting instructions provided to you at the polling place carefully before casting your vote(s), and ask a poll worker for assistance if you are unsure about any aspect of the voting procedures. If you think you may have spoiled your ballot, do not hesitate to report the situation to a poll worker.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some political parties may not field candidates for every single partisan office on a ballot, so by selecting a straight ticket you may end up not voting at all in some races. Therefore, if you plan to vote a straight ticket, you might want to review your ballot first to verify that your party has a candidate running for every partisan office listed (and also be sure to cast votes for non-partisan offices not included in the straight ticket selection process). As they say, "If you're going to take the time to vote, take a few extra seconds and make every vote count."

Last updated:   24 July 2012

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Sources:

    Baker, Deborah.   "Officials Find, Fix Glitch in NM Voting Machine."
    Associated Press.   7 October 2008.

    Hamilton, James T.   "Straight-Ticket Omits Presidential Race."
    Charlotte Observer.   14 October 2008.

    Charleston Gazette.   "State Ballot Problems Alleged."
    13 October 2008.