Under the Dome

500,000 NC voters skip some down-ballot races

At right, a voter waves her completed ballot to a poll worker as she moves toward the vote counting machine at the White Rock Baptist Church precinct on Fayetteville Road, Durham, NC Tuesday, March 15, 2016.
At right, a voter waves her completed ballot to a poll worker as she moves toward the vote counting machine at the White Rock Baptist Church precinct on Fayetteville Road, Durham, NC Tuesday, March 15, 2016. hlynch@newsobserver.com

With little publicity about the candidates, more than 500,000 primary voters in Tuesday’s elections didn’t pick a preference for Council of State races like labor commissioner or insurance commissioner.

Down-ballot drop-off is common in most elections because some voters only want a say on the most high-profile races. It’s less common in general elections because North Carolina voters have had the option to vote a straight partisan ticket.

In the Republican primary, only 72 percent of voters in the presidential primary picked one of the three candidates for insurance commissioner – meaning that more than one in four voters left that part of their ballot blank.

The insurance commissioner race lacked a prominent candidate. The participation numbers were higher in the GOP gubernatorial primary – 93 percent made a choice – and in the party’s U.S. Senate primary, where 89 percent voted.

Down-ballot participation was higher in the Democratic primary, where labor commissioner appeared to get the fewest votes of the Council of State races. About 82 percent of voters in the presidential primary made a selection for labor commissioner, while 86 percent voted for U.S. Senate and 91 percent made a choice for governor.

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