(Posted May 7) What will be the practical effect of banning straight ticket voting, enacted late last year by Michigan’s Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by GOP Gov. Rick Snyder? Will it hurt Democrats, as most seem to believe, or will it be a wash?
NORTH CAROLINA POLL
A recent poll in North Carolina, comparing voter behavior in 2012 — the last election before the Tarheel State banned the practice in 2013 — and what is likely to happen this year indicates that abolishing straight ticket voting may give the Republicans as much as a 10% advantage.
A joint venture by Public Policy Polling, located in Raleigh, NC, and DeVries & Associates, Inc., of Wilmington, NC, surveyed 960 registered NC voters between April 22-24. The margin of error was + or -3.2%. 80% of the participants, selected through a list-based sample, responded by phone, while 20% answered over the Internet. For the published report on the PPP/DeVries poll, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or BKS42@aol.com
The key survey results, analyzed by Walt DeVries (who was a delegate to Michigan’s 1961-62 Constitutional Convention), are as follows:
* In the 2012 presidential election, which allowed straight ticket voting in North Carolina, 28% of the poll’s respondents say they voted straight ticket for Democrats only, 18% said they voted straight ticket for Republicans only, and more than half (54%) said they split their tickets for candidates of both parties. When you take out the 17% who say they did not vote in 2012 and re-percentage the results for those 54% who did split their 2012 tickets, 42% say they voted for more Democrats and 58% for more Republicans — a more than 10% advantage gain for GOP candidates over Democratic candidates when North Carolina voters are allowed to voluntarily split their ballots in the 2012 election.
* When voters are told they will not be able to vote straight party ballots this year and must vote on each individual partisan office, 28% say they will vote only for Democrats, while 21% say they will vote only for Republicans, 6% for Libertarians, and 45% will split their tickets for both Republicans and Democrats. Of those 45% who will split their tickets, when DeVries “re-percentages” them, the numbers are the same for 2016 as they were in 2012, with 42% of the ticket-splitters saying they will lean toward Democrats and 58% saying they will select more Republicans.
* The change in North Carolina’s ballot structure (no more straight ticket party voting with one mark) has reduced the amount of voluntary ticket-splitting from 54% in 2012 to a projected 40% in 2016 voting intentions next November — a decrease of 14%, and has increased the voter intentions for GOP candidates in 2016 by 16%. This appears to be the intention of the 2013 Republican-sponsored Voter ID act when it changed the NC ballot structure, giving Republican candidates a clear advantage over Democrats.
COMPARING NORTH CAROLINA WITH MICHIGAN
Other findings by DeVries and the survey:
- 91% of North Carolina’s registered voters in this poll say they will vote in this year’s Nov. 8 general election — the same amount who say they turned out in 2012.
- In the poll, 40% of NC voters self-identify as Democrats, 33% as Republicans and 27% as Unaffiliated/Other. No major changes in voter registration are expected by November of this year.
- The Republican candidates for President, Governor, Lt. Governor indicates a 41% base partisan GOP strength, while Democrats have a 40% base partisan strength. The Libertarian candidates for U.S. Senator, Governor, and Lt. Gov. have a 6% base partisan strength. Voter indecision in the races for President and Governor averages about 11% (one of 10 voters). In the races for U.S. Senate and Lt. Governor, indecision is about double that for prez and guv.
- North Carolina voters appear divided on whether they think abolishing straight ticket voting is a good idea, although a slight plurality (43%) approve of the ban while 37% oppose it. Roughly 20% say they aren’t sure how they feel about the change.
- Three states banned straight party ticket voting between 2013 and 2015 (Michigan, North Carolina, and West Virginia). Straight-ticket voting has declined over the years, but other states that still allow it are Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.
- Despite the relatively equal strengths of the two major political parties in North Carolina, with a slight edge to the Democrats, DeVries notes that 10 of NC’s 13 U.S. Representatives are Republicans, with GOP majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. DeVries says this is because of the gerrymandering of the Congressional, state senate and state house districts by majority Republicans in the Legislature. He would probably say the same about Michigan, where Republicans hold heavy majorities in the Congressional delegation and the state House and Senate despite polling data that shows a plurality of the electorate is Democratic.