An editorial today in The New York Times regarding North Carolina’s poorly designed ballot highlights a potential election day mess for our state.
The problem is that in North Carolina voting straight-party does not include voting in the presidential contest. This creates undervoting — where voters select straight-party but may not realize they have not voted for president. As the Times suggests, thousands of votes could be lost, which is never a good thing, particularly in a year that polls suggest the presidential race is in a dead heat.
So, imagine this scenario — Obama loses North Carolina by a margin of less than the undervote for straight-party Democrats. It could happen. Understandably, efforts to educate voters have been ramped up this election cycle.
The state Board of Elections is requiring poll workers to explain to every voter that straight-party voting doesn’t include the presidential contest and non partisan judicial races. A written explanation is also being distributed and there are advisories posted at precincts as well as on the ballot.
Still, the law needs changed, as the Board of Elections has been recommending for years. Of the 17 states that allow for straight-party voting, only North Carolina does not include the presidential contest in a straight-party selection. Legislators put this confusing ballot rule in play decades ago as North Carolina was becoming a solid red state and Democrats were looking for an edge to hold onto power.
Maybe having North Carolina in play is a once-a-generation event. But probably not. What’s not in doubt is the North Carolina General Assembly must address this issue in 2009, so we don’t face this situation again in 2012.
In the meantime, pass it on: Voting straight-party doesn’t including voting for president.
And let’s hope that we don’t wake up Wednesday, Nov. 5 with an election nightmare on our hands.