Under the Dome

Betts: Straight ticket boosts all parties

Jack Betts says Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians benefited from straight-ticket voting.

After looking at the results of the November election, the Charlotte Observer columnist writes that all three parties drew more straight-ticket ballots than their party representation would suggest.

Democrats represent 46 percent of registered voters, but drew 58.8 percent of straight ticket votes. Republicans represent 32 percent of voters, but drew 40.4 percent of straight ticket votes.  

This is not quite the same as saying that all those straight-party Democratic ballots were cast by Democrats, or that all those Republican straight-party ballots were cast by Republicans. There may have been a number of straight-ticket ballots cast by unaffiliated voters, who make up 22 percent of the state's registered voters. And of course there might have been some crossover straight tickets, too. 

He also notes that the 19,054 Libertarian straight-ticket ballots far outnumbere the 3,683 registered Libertarian voters.


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Re: Betts: Straight ticket boosts all parties

Is this seriously news? Let's do some more thoughtful math...22% of registration is unaffiliated, and there is no "unaffiliated" straight ticket option. Thus, it's reasonable to assume, if we are trying to figure out what "their party registration would suggest" that the unaffiliated voters split like the rest of the electorate. Non-unaffiliated voters are registered 58.8% Dem and 41% Rep. 58.8% of the 22% makes a 12.9% of total boost for Dems, and the remaining 9% boost goes to Republicans.

Thus we would more or less expect by registration for Democrats to capture 46 + 12.9 = 58.9% (compared to the actual of 58.8% as reported by Betts).

We also would more or less expect by registration for Republicans to capture 32 + 9 = 41% (compared to the actual of 40.4% as reported by Betts).

Betts is wrong, and he uses poor methodology to make his flawed case.

Also, an election is a zero sum game. The idea that "Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians benefited from straight-ticket voting" is absurd on its face.

Edit: I just crossposted on Bett's blog and added this analysis of Libertarians...

Assuming no one switched over (after straight party Dem voting, picking Dole), 57% of Hagan's votes came from straight party voting. Given a similar assumption, 46.7% of Dole's votes came from straight party voting. By the same method, 14.3% of Chris Cole's votes came from straight party voting. By this methodology, it's clear that Libertarians relied much less on the straight party option than either of the other two parties. I would argue, however, that the difference here between Hagan and Dole (in this methodology) is due to the classic NC scenario of people voting Republican federally and Democratic at the state level (McCain-Dole/DemCouncilofState voters). I would run these numbers for the Governor's race, but most would agree that the sensation of Dems for McCrory would make them less useful. Thus, I argue that there's really no news here...just fun numbers and the good life lesson that summary statistics can be very misleading - depending on how carefully they are produced.

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