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More Voters Get To The End Of The Ballot In 2014

2014Ballot_Judges.JPG
Mecklenburg County

In addition to electing new federal, state and local lawmakers, North Carolinians voted for 144 new judges, from the state’s Supreme Court down to district courts. Fewer people vote in these lower information, non-partisan, down ballot races—it’s called “roll-off”— but this year more people made it all the way through.

Voters cast ballots in the high-profile races, like the Thom Tillis-Kay Hagan Senate race. Fewer people vote for state races, and even fewer vote for judges, and so on all the way down to the Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisors.

In the state Supreme Court races, “the voter drop-off was a lot less this year,” says Brent Laurenz, executive director of the North Carolina Center for Voter Education. “It was closer to 13 to 15 percent drop-off, and in past years it was more like 25 percent.”

It also held true in Appeals Court races, where only 20 percent dropped off, down from 33 percent in 2010.

Laurenz attributes the change to the elimination of straight-ticket voting. Voters used to have the option to fill in a box that automatically voted for all one party. The elections overhaul passed by Republican lawmakers removed that option.

University of Florida political science professor Michael McDonald says the change has a two-fold effect.

“Without it you’ll get more roll-off among those partisan offices towards the bottom, but you’re going to get higher participation with the non-partisan races,” says McDonald.

Voters are less likely to make it through the state House and Senate races, but those who do are more likely to keep going to the end of the ballot.