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Straight Ticket Voting in North Carolina


North Carolina Straight Ticket Confusion
Voting Straight Ticket in North Carolina does NOT include the Presidential contest.
NC voters threw away 92,000 votes for President in 2004 because of confusing law. Other states report problems in ballot miscounts due to straight ticket programming errors.
"The offices of President and Vice President of the United States are not included in a Straight Party vote.  This contest must be voted separately."
NC is the only state in the US where straight ticket voting does not count for President. Our state has one of the highest undervote rates for President in the Country because of this. 
Miscounts -  Voters Unite reports that misprogramming caused straight-party votes to be dropped or counted for the opposite candidate, for example, in Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin
Lack of voter education. The 3 million + voter guides mailed to households all over North Carolina do not mention North Carolina's straight ticket exception. That straight ticket voting does not count for the President is non-sensical and counter-intuitive, the instructions on the ballot are confusing.  Recent feedback from early voting poll workers and observers indicates that many voters do not understand how the straight ticket voting option, or that it IS optional.
NC Straight Ticket Voting Facts:
President - straight ticket voting does not count for President You must vote separately for President.
Non Partisan - straight ticket doesn't count for non partisan contests (like Judicial).
Multi Seat Contests - If you vote straight ticket but you also cross over vote, your party choices are erased in that multi seat race. You will have to go back and mark your party choices in that multi seat race.
Straight Ticket is optional. You do not have to select the "straight party". Just make your choices separately.
If using the "straight ticket" option on your ballot - vote in three steps with a flip:
1. Vote for President,
2. Vote Straight ticket option
3. Flip the ballot over and vote for Judicial Contests and local non partisan contests.
If voters can remember to Vote 1-2-3, they can ensure that their vote fully counts.

Below a chart created by the NC Coalition for Verified Voting, using data compiled by computer scientist Dr. Justin Moore . Beneath the chart are links to allow you to verify the source of the data.

 Year  Turnout  Ballots Cast for President  # of Undervotes  % of Undervote
 2000  3,015,964  2,940,600  75,364  3.15
 Year  Turnout  Ballots Cast for President  # of Undervotes  % of Undervote
 2004  3,593,323  3,501,007  92,316  2.57
(Updated for clarification). Justin Moore*, PHD in Computer Science at Duke University and now working for Google provided the turnout and ballots cast for the 2000 and 2004 elections at his website here .  From that information, I have provided a comparison of the undervotes for years 2000 and  2004 in the charts above. Dr. Moore's numbers are partially from the NC SBoE website but Dr. Moore had to augment that incomplete information by contacting some indvidual counties.  North Carolina Counties do not all report their vote data the same way, and some had not reported it at all.  Neither the State nor the Counties do an analysis of undervotes since it is not required by law to do so.
Dr. Moore advised the NC State Legislature's Joint Select Committee on Electronic Voting in 2004/2005 prior to our passage of the Public Confidence in Elections Act SL 323 that required paper ballots and post election audits.
Howard Scripps News Article Discusses NC's Straight Ticket Voting Exception

2004 vote count smoother, still some problems

By THOMAS HARGROVE Scripps Howard News Service December 22, 2004
...Gary Bartlett, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Elections, did not defend the high undervote or suggest voters are ignoring the presidential race. "I was hoping we would improve over what happened in 2000. But this shows a law in our state that needs to be reviewed and probably be changed," Bartlett said.
Both North Carolina and South Carolina historically suffer unusually high undervotes in presidential elections because, by state law, voters who mark the "straight-party-ticket voting" option must also vote separately for president. Every four years, tens of thousands of voters in both states apparently forget to do this.
Full election data is not yet available from South Carolina, but in North Carolina this year 58,223 ballots failed to register a presidential vote.
A few other states with historically high rates of undervoting showed little or no improvement this year, including the key battleground state of Ohio. Some 96,580 ballots in the Buckeye State failed to register a presidential vote this year, up from 93,991 four years ago....

Avoid Straight-Party Voting 
Straight-party voting laws are confusing.
Misprogramming often counts votes incorrectly.
by Ellen Theisen, at Voters Unite  October 19, 2008 

In North Carolina, a straight party vote DOES NOT include the President. The ballot says: "The offices of President and Vice President of the United States are not included in a Straight Party vote. This contest must be voted separately." 

Discussion about Under-Votes

Another source of data is from Nevada, which is (as far as I know) the only state in the nation to offer a None of the Above choice in the Presidential race.  This gives a better way to measure intentional abstention, because now voters who intentionally abstain can mark
None of the Above instead of leaving it blank.  

Nevada's numbers would suggest that 0.5% is probably in the right ballpark as an estimate of the intentional abstention rate (in a Presidential contest in a general election).  it seems likely that the intentional
abstention rate in Presidential races is significantly lower than 2% and probably significantly under 1%.
see this report: 

The EAC has a survey of 50 states' voting data for the year 2004 which includes an undervote analysis.   This is not actual "EAC" data.  It is State/county data, as reported to the EAC, and
the EAC publishes it. This is not a guarantee of the correctness or completeness of the information. The EAC sends out a survey and publishes the response.

The EAC survey also includes other reports on, for example, "drop off," which is not the same as "under-vote.".

What is noteworthy is that there are at least 2, if not 3, definitions for "under-vote"/"drop-off"/other. . . in the survey.

And some states add their own - like Georgia's "blank votes," which
have been attributed with allowing Georgia to report such impressively low "under-vote"