Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Voting the Party Line: not as easy as it used to be

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Used to be that "voting the party line" was a synonym for thoughtless voting. But in this year's mayoral race, straight-party voting takes a bit of deliberation.

Here at City Paper, we've already heard one complaint -- from the husband of a staffer's landlady -- about a voter who "pulled the straight-party lever"* for the Republican slate. Only afterwards did the voter realize that in doing so, he'd voted for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl by mistake. The mayor is the Democratic nominee, of course, but thanks to a successful write-in campaign during the May primary, he's also the GOP's candidate in the race. Looks like that bit of Machiavellianism had paid off with one vote, at least. 

Meanwhile, Ravenstahl's two challengers -- Dok Harris and Kevin Acklin -- may be struggling with the reverse phenomenon. Acklin and Harris appear under their own names, but you can also vote for them on the "party-line" screen, alongside the Dems and the GOP. Acklin is running under the "Independent" party, whereas Harris appears as the "Franco Dok Harris" party.

But there's a wrinkle, says Harris supporter Stephanie Dangel. A "get out the vote" volunteer was told by a poll worker that voting for Harris on the party-line screen "would preclude the voter from voting for other offices." That's not true: A party-line vote only registers in the races where the party has a candidate, and voters are still given the opportunity to vote in other races.

Assuming the machines work correctly, voters will get that chance -- no matter what a poll worker might think about it. But Dangel says she and other Harris backers have heard from voters who are "confused" about how the system is supposed to work. 

Maybe this is a good time for voters to break the habit of casting straight-party ballots?

* I know -- archaic language in the age of electronic voting. "Pushed the straight-party button"? 



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