Straight-Ticket Voting a Confusing Issue in N.C. - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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Americans all over the country are wondering about the validity of a rumor that was forwarded to voters by e-mail in several states. It warned that if voters choose to cast a straight-ticket or straight-party ballot, they could inadvertently not vote for president of the United States.

Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama also warned voters at a rally in North Carolina Oct. 29 about straight-ticket voting. “When you do vote, you have to vote in two steps–one for president, and one for the rest of the ticket. If you vote for a straight ticket, you have not voted in the presidential election. You need to vote for president separately,” Obama said.

His instructions were accurate for voters in North Carolina, but in other states that offer straight-ticket voting, that advice is incorrect. Straight-ticket voting is allowed in 15 states, but only one state, North Carolina, actually decouples the presidential race from the other races on the ballot. Oklahoma ballots are broken up into four sections–presidential, congressional, statewide races, and county and local races–and voters can vote straight party tickets for each section if they choose.

The Obama campaign set up a Website listing the states that offer straight-ticket voting and explains how voting in North Carolina differs from the other straight ticket states.

“There are clear instructions in all of these states as to how voters should go about making their selection for president [first] and then vote for down ballot candidates,” says Donna Brazile, a strategist for the Democratic Party. “The voting education is there but, as always, we are [making sure they understand by] doing radio spots and day-to-day communications on the ground as we canvas those communities.”

Individuals who do not wish to vote along party lines for every office on the ballot can vote normally. Some people prefer to vote by straight ticket because they are highly affiliated with one party and it saves time, compared with casting a single vote for each office.

Recently, voters who were worried that their vote for the presidency wouldn’t count went back over their ballot to mark or select each individual office. With the exception of North Carolina, it is not necessary to make individual partisan office selections after selecting a straight-ticket vote.

Unfortunately, this type of “emphasis voting” made matters worse during a 2006 election in Texas, where touch-screen computers counted 1% of the votes wrong when voters chose the straight ticket option.

On a touch-screen voting machine, reselecting each vote after already casting a straight-ticket vote will deselect the original vote, resulting in a vote for no one, says Larry Norden, an attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan public policy and law institute.

“If there is a very close race, all of these things can add up and make a difference,” Norden says. “We learned that from the 2000 [presidential] elections in Florida.” In that election, flawed ballot design and voter error allowed President George W. Bush to beat

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.