NEWS HEADLINES

Election night’s biggest winner? Straight-party voting

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, November 10, 2012

More than 1 in 2 ballots cast in this year’s election in Wise County were straight-ticket Republican votes.

For the first time in Wise County voting history, more than 50 percent of voters cast a straight Republican ballot (52 percent, to be exact). Overall, straight-party voting made up 62 percent of all ballots cast.

CELEBRATE TONIGHT – Tracy Smith along with several other Wise County Democrats shout for their candidate’s re-election.

Of those 13,146 straight-party votes out of the 21,074 total votes cast in the election, 84 percent were Republican, 15 percent were Democratic and less than 1 percent was for the Libertarian and Green parties.

That continues a trend in recent elections. In the 2004 election, 27 percent voted a Republican straight ticket. The percentage jumped to 39 percent in 2008. And in the midterm election in 2010, 49.5 percent voted all Republican.

Straight-party voting may explain why only 71 percent of those who cast a ballot this year voted in the county-wide proposition of abolishing the position of county surveyor. When a straight-party ballot is cast, voters still must mark their choices in nonpartisan issues such as the propositions. Results show that 6,111 left that issue blank on their ballots. (Read more on the county surveyor issue in a related story.)

Even the many races which only featured a single candidate (all Republican) routinely saw voting percentages ranging from 82 to 85 percent.

While early voting did set a new record, the overall record for highest percentage turnout for an election was not set. This year, 58.64 percent of registered voters in the county cast a ballot. The record remains 59.4 percent in 2004. Voter turnout this year was nearly identical to the 58.5 percent from the presidential election in 2008.

President Barack Obama may have won the national race for re-election, but Wise County voters overwhelmingy went with the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket, 83 percent to 16 percent over Obama/Joe Biden. Libertarian and Green party candidates, along with write-in candidates, made up just a little over 1 percent of the local vote.

On the strength of the straight-party voting, all Republicans on the ballot cruised to victories locally. In fact, the strongest showing by a Democrat on the Wise County ballot was Michele Petty in the Place 6 Supreme Court Justice race, who managed 18.2 percent of the vote. Her Republican opponent, Nathan Hecht, won 77.2 percent of the local vote and was re-elected state-wide.

Another statistic to note is that more people voted early than on election day. After the record 10,982 votes cast in person during early voting, 10,092 voted on election day.

Elections Administrator Lannie Noble said he did not hear of any problems at any of the polling locations on election day.

“I didn’t hear of any long lines,” he said. “I was at the polling location at the Ag Extension office a little after 5 p.m. after people got off work and the line had gotten to about 30 people, … but I don’t think anybody waited more than 10-15 minutes at the most.”

He attributed the rather smooth sailing to electronic poll books being used for the first time (replacing the paper books), the addition of voting machines in high-population precincts and the lower number of people voting on election day due to so many voting early.

All of the results are unofficial until canvassing, which is scheduled for next week.

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