November 6, 2008

Straight Party Vote Advantage

Marc Comtois

I've begun looking at the statewide election result metrics (found at the RI BoE). The first thing I've focused on is the straight party ticket vote, and what I've learned is no surprise.

Statewide, nearly 27% of all votes for Barack Obama came via the straight party ticket vote. That percentage was just above 14% for John McCain.

Take home point: The average Democrat starts with about a 50% straight party vote advantage over the average Republican.

Here are the towns for which there were above-the-average straight party votes for each party's Presidential nominee [with %s rounded and total straight ticket votes in ( )]*.

First the Democrats
Central Falls - 59% (1811)
Providence - 46% (20405)
Woonsocket - 38.0% (3180)
Pawtucket - 36% (6302)
East Providence - 31% (4542)
North Providence - 30% (2892)

Then Republicans:
Central Falls - 25% (158)
Providence - 21% (1680)
Newport - 20% (574)
Jamestown - 20% (236)
Barrington - 19% (656)
Scituate - 18% (519)
Woonsocket - 18% (784)
West Greenwich - 17% (265)
Coventry - 17% (1177)
East Greenwich - 16% (545)
Exeter - 16% (228)
Tiverton - 16% (449)
Smithfield - 15% (662)
Hopkinton - 15% (241)
North Kingstown - 14% (851)
East Providence - 14% (849)

Couple points on the above:
1) The highest % rate of straight party GOP is lower than the lowest above-the-average community for Democrats.
2) For the communities with 20% or greater GOP straight party votes, it looks like the straight party option was used as a quick and easy method to lodge a protest vote against the entrenched party.
3) Though not on the list, the largest amount of straight-party votes for the GOP came from Warwick (2162) and Cranston (1874), which were just below the average of all GOP votes cast for President in those communities. Compare that to the highest for the Democrats.

I've also looked at the same overall stats for the congressional votes. The Democrats are about the same, with 26% of all votes for the Democrats (Kennedy and Langevin) coming via straight-party ticket voters and almost 20% for the Republicans (Scott and Zaccaria). As to the last, it would appear that, given their significantly smaller vote totals, a greater percentage of their votes came via the "protest" method alluded to above.

More to come....

* Updated 11/13/2008 with final numbers from BoE.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I did not vote for the straight party ticket for the simple reason that it would have deprived me of the pleasure of connecting the arrow pointing to Barack Obama's name.

Posted by: Phil at November 6, 2008 5:18 PM

Funny, In Coventry Change cam in the form of Republican near sweep. The dems ahd control for 24 years, and now it's the R's

Posted by: John at November 6, 2008 6:10 PM

Funny, In Coventry Change cam in the form of Republican near sweep. The dems had control for 24 years, and now it's the R's

Posted by: John at November 6, 2008 6:10 PM

Excellent analysis, Marc. The obvious conclusion is that running as a Republican locally has a certain inherent disadvantage. Of course, how we try to overcome a stacked deck, is what we'll be debating for a while.

Since I'm involved in E.P. political stuff, I've already done somewhat similar checks of voting patterns (although yours is much better). Basically here in E.P., were we (the Republicans) had local candidates up who were subject to the party lever in 2008, we got killed, regardless of the amount of effort we put into a particular campaign. Where we ran under "without party marks," such as with city council and school committee, we did quite well.

Despite being as Republican as one can get, in one of the most Democrat cities, I have never voted a straight party ticket on principle. Of course, I usually (but not always) vote for all Republicans, but I always mark the votes individually. The extra minute it takes is worth the satisfaction of knowing you thought your vote through.

Posted by: Will at November 6, 2008 6:49 PM

I haven't looked at the straight-party voting numbers for my town (SK) yet, but it probably made a real difference in my race. Running as an independent in an "elect 5" school committee election, I came in 6th, 75 votes behind the 5th place finisher, a Democrat (he had 6402, I had 6327).

I understood the disadvantage at which I was putting myself running as an independent, and I can't help but think that I could have and should have gotten 76 more votes through campaigning harder. And it certainly is possible to win as an independent, as another candidate did in my race, actually finishing 2nd. But the system needs some serious changing to give independents more of a fair shot.

Not only the elimination of straight-party voting, but the practice of automatically listing affiliated candidates ahead of independents (in my race, the 5th place finisher was listed 1st on the ballot; I was listed 6th). Another very small (and probably meaningless) but irritating thing is that on the ballot under candidates' names the words DEMOCRAT and REPUBLICAN are typed in all caps while the word Independent is not.

Despite all that, I know now that I can win as an independent, at least at the town level, if I devote more time to the campaign. That's my lesson for next time, if there is one.

Posted by: Jon at November 6, 2008 10:41 PM

Marc - This is probably my lack of computer knowledge showing, but how can I get from those data files the number of straight-party votes in SK, both Democrat and Republican? I don't know if I can't open them as the right type of file or if I just am not understanding the data . . .


Posted by: Jon at November 6, 2008 11:02 PM

I think there's no surprise that the cities who voted straight Democrat had the highest incidence of illegal aliens in their mist.

Sadly, I fear the balance of those who voted the straight party Democrat ticket are the ones, like the illegals, who want the government to subsidize their lives.

Voting straight Democratic ticket and voting for a Democratic idea is not one in the same.

Posted by: Roland at November 7, 2008 12:08 AM

"Voting straight Democratic ticket and voting for a Democratic idea is not one in the same."

That is so correct, Roland, and especially in this state.

Posted by: Monique at November 7, 2008 6:48 AM

In Cumberland/Lincoln District 19, we ran an excellent candidate, Kathy Dennen against the likely new Senate Majority Leader Dan Connors. In total votes, Connors won by about 800. When we remove all the straight ticket votes, Dennen wins by 232. It's a joke. Yeah, some people still would have voted for him, but more than 232 of them? We'll never know until we get rid of that option. Anyone should be embarrassed to use that. It's lazy, thoughtless and really just irresponsible. I really want to start a campaign for the next two years with the single goal of either getting rid of it or getting voters to not use it.

Posted by: Patrick at November 7, 2008 8:12 AM

Also to go along with Marc's evaluations and one of the commenters, the history behind straight ticket voting comes from the days when people could get naturalized more quickly and it was common that uneducated and illiterate people would vote (ok, so not much has changed there). The people in charge of the parties realized that many voters would never be able to read all the names that they wanted votes for, so they would just show them the party name, be it DEMOCRAT or REPUBLICAN and tell them, "just look for this and vote for that" and they'd vote straight ticket, mark that one box and be done.

Check this where some in the Assembly did try to get rid of it in this past session. You can probably guess how it fared.

Posted by: James L. at November 7, 2008 8:29 AM

I never voted straight ticket.
That lever is for bottom feeders,mochers and the uninformed, which is 80% of rhode Isnaders.. This is what keeps the Dems in power. Unbalanced ...for sure

Posted by: RiverFox at November 7, 2008 8:35 AM

I'm all for getting rid of straight-ticket voting, too. I've never voted one. It's responsible for much of the garbage in the General Assembly.

Posted by: rhody at November 7, 2008 12:23 PM

You need to import them into Excel (or something similar). They are ASCI text files.

Posted by: Marc at November 7, 2008 1:25 PM
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