Straightening Out the Straight-Ticket Ballot Confusion in NC

North Carolina Straight Ticket Confusion

Voting Straight Ticket in North Carolina does NOT include the Presidential contest

By Joyce McCloy via MMOB

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.

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-plus 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.

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

If voters can remember to Vote 1-2-3, they can ensure that their vote fully counts.

Justin Moore, PHD from Duke University and now working for Google provides an analysis of the undervotes in 2001 and  2004 on his site. He pulled his numbers from the NC SBoE website.  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.
 Year  Turnout  Ballots Cast for President  # of Undervotes  % of Undervote
 2000  3,015,964  2,940,600  75,364  3.15
2000 Turnout and ballots cast from NC State Board of Elections
2000 Turnout, ballots cast, undervotes and undervote percent from Justin Moore website

 Year  Turnout  Ballots Cast for President  # of Undervotes  % of Undervote
 2004  3,593,323  3,501,007  92,316  2.57
2004 Turnout and ballots cast from the NC State Board of Elections
2004 Turnout, ballots cast, undervote and undervote percent from Justin Moore website

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.