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Blank Ballots More Likely in Races with Same-Party Candidates

by Richard Winger, published

blank ballots Alexander Mak /

At the November 2012 elections for U.S. House and Assembly, thousands of voters went to the polls, but left their ballots blank for either or both of those two offices. When all the U.S. House and Assembly races are looked at together, one finds that only 90.38% of the possible votes for those two offices were actually cast.

Almost 10% of the possible votes were “blanks”; the voter looked at the ballot and chose to skip that race.

When one breaks down the data according to the type of race, the conclusion can be drawn that many voters will not participate in a general election race that only has two candidates from the same party. In those races, the blanks rose to 16.01 percent.

In other words, one-sixth of the voters, seeing a race with only two candidates from the same party, effectively cast a “none of the above” vote.

One might object that this data only represents one election in one state and that is a valid point. However, further study at this point is not easy because the only other state with a top-two system like California is Washington, and Washington has not yet had any congressional races with two candidates from the same party on the November ballot.

Also, Washington state doesn’t provide data on the number of ballots cast within any particular district the way California does.

In the races with an independent candidate versus a major party candidate, the “none of the above” percentage was 9.39 percent. In races with only one candidate on the ballot (there were only two of those, both Assembly races), the “none of the above” vote amounted to 25.01 percent.

Finally, in the one Assembly race between a major party candidate and a minor party candidate (there were no U.S. House races like that), the “none of the above” vote was 12.09 percent.

The fewest “none of the above” votes, not surprisingly, were cast in U.S. House and Assembly races with one Democrat and one Republican. In those races, the “NOTA” vote was only 7.81 percent.

In November 2012, among the races that had at least two candidates on the ballot, the biggest “NOTA” vote was in the 31st Congressional District, where 23.14 percent of the voters chose to leave the office blank. That was a Democratic district, yet the only two candidates on the November ballot were two Republicans, Gary Miller (who won) and Bob Dutton.

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