Nearly every legislative and congressional election in Ohio this month had one thing in common: They were blowouts. It didn’t matter whether the winner was a Democrat or Republican, the story was the same. “I was certainly surprised by the margins,” said Rep. Scott Ryan, R-Newark, vice chairman of the Ohio House Republican Organizational Committee. “In many districts where the typical mix would be more 50-50, the races still weren’t close. That was very surprising to me.” But Secretary of State Jon Husted couldn’t muster any surprise. The partisan gerrymandering process that allowed Republicans to draw legislative and congressional seats in their favor continues to provide most general-election voters with no real option at the ballot, he said.
For poll worker Larry Nelson, Election Day’s most irritating hour — or hours — arrives after the polls close, when the write-in votes are counted. “Here you are, on your feet after working 14 hours, and now you have to sort through the ballots looking for Mickey Mouse,” he explains. “It’s quite a bit of work for something that doesn’t mean a whole lot. Hopefully we can get the law changed before the next election.” Consider it done. On April 2, the day after this year’s spring election, Gov. Scott Walker quietly signed a bill lifting the requirement that all write-in votes must be counted.
A lengthy retabulation of the March 18 primary results in Champaign County uncovered major discrepancies in some unofficial vote totals reported on election night. In the uncontested race for 13th Congressional District Democratic Central Committeewoman, for example, Jayne Mazotti of Taylorville now has 5,284 votes — rather than the 450 votes with which she was credited on March 18. In another race — for 15th Congressional District Democratic Central Committeeman — Brandon Phelps had 517 votes, not the 574 votes he was credited with on election night. The badly erroneous election results all were in the Democratic Party primary and all in uncontested races where there was just one candidate for one position.
Thanks to redistricting, myriad uncontested races and ballot adjustments, area voters will need a program to assist with this week’s election process. Republican and Democratic primaries on June 12 are expected to happen on schedule despite past court rulings and political infighting. Whether you’ll cast your vote depends largely on where you live and in which party primary you participate.
Virginia has become one of the few true swing states in presidential elections and, in recent years, has experienced divided partisan control of its state legislature. You’d think that this would have prompted hotly contested state legislative races on Election Day, but in fact only 52 of 140 races had candidates from both major parties – including just 27 percent of elections for the House of Delegates. Another round of largely uncontested races is just the latest evidence of the failure of winner-take-all, single-member district elections.
Winner-take-all inherently represents voters poorly and tempts partisans to gerrymander outcomes. Although we need other changes like independent redistricting, it’s time to look for a better way grounded in our electoral traditions: fair voting, which is an American form of proportional representation in elections taking place in larger “superdistricts.”
Local elections officials don’t plan to challenge a new law that leaves names of unopposed municipal candidates off ballots — but the statute may be destined to change anyway. On Wednesday, a Tippecanoe Circuit Court judge granted a preliminary injunction overriding the statute in that county.
The law, which took effect July 1, means that Evansville City Council members Dan McGinn, R-1st Ward, and Connie Robinson, D-4th Ward, will not appear on the Nov. 8 municipal election ballot. The statute affects only municipal elections.
The chairwoman of the Indiana Senate Elections Committee believes the uproar over a new law allowing election officials to drop uncontested races from the ballot is a lot of fuss over nothing. State Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake, co-sponsored House Enrolled Act 1242, which eliminates a requirement that even candidates without an opponent be listed on the ballot.
“It should reduce the size of the ballot,” Landske said, which she believes will save money. Though the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency projects any savings from shorter optical-scan ballots will be “minimal.”
Critics of the change say leaving candidates off the ballot is antidemocratic and likely to confuse voters who will wonder why they could only vote for certain offices. That has led election officials in Lake County, and in counties across Indiana, to announce they plan to ignore the law and list every candidate in every race, even unopposed candidates.
Hoosier voters could always count on receiving a complete ballot when they stepped inside the voting booth. Not any more.
In a misguided example of trying to streamline the voting process and save a few dollars, a new state law that went into effect on July 1 prohibits listing the names of unopposed candidates on the ballot. This bill will do nothing except create confusion, while any monetary savings would be negligible.