NO STRAIGHT-PARTY VOTING IN NORTH CAROLINA

BY CASH MICHAELS OF THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL

NORTH CAROLINA

There are only seven states in the nation where one can straight-ticket vote in the November 3, 2020 general election.

North Carolina is not one of them.

That has no effect on the One Stop Early Voting/Same Day Registration that started last week, ending on February 29, or voting in the March 3 North Carolina and Super Tuesday 15 state primaries.

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t still confusion.

In primary voting, voters are given ballots that list only their registered party’s candidates for particular elective offices.

There is no straight-party voting during primaries.

The voter selects from the candidates of their party listed as to who will be the nominee going into the November 3 general election, running against the chosen nominee from the opposing political party or parties.

The general election is the process by which registered voters from both political parties decide which candidate will prevail in ultimately being elected to office. That is when traditionally straight-party voting would normally take place in North Carolina.

That is until 2013, when the Republican-led NC General Assembly passed General Statute 163-165.6, eliminating straight-party voting  in North Carolina, reportedly in an effort to make long candidate ballots daunting for Democratic voters. The GOP then also passed the large voter omnibus law, which, among other things, mandated photo voter identification be used for in-person voting.

That part of the omnibus law was struck down by the courts, but the prohibition against straight-ticket voting remained.

Now, since 2014, if your party has a large number of candidates listed on a presidential year ballot, you, as a registered voter, are required to read through and check each candidate you are voting for, even if you only intend to vote for your party’s entire slate.

One of the reasons this is of key interest during this presidential election is that, until 2013, straight-party voting in North Carolina meant voting for the President and Vice President of the United States as a team separately from all of the other down ballot races, then the rest as one straight ticket. So voters intending to vote for the President/Vice President and all of the other candidates of one party had to mark two boxes, not one.

This led to a lot of confusion at the polls. However, many who voted straight-ticket neglected to vote for President/Vice President at all, causing ‘undervotes’, or incomplete ballots.

Reportedly in the 2000 presidential elections, 3.15 percent of North Carolina ballots submitted did not have votes for President/Vice President, or approximately 92,000 ballots.

Thanks to the 2013 voter omnibus law, that problem will no longer exist.