Split-ticket voting

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In Australian[1] and U.S. politics, a split ticket refers to a ballot on which the voter has chosen candidates from different political parties when multiple offices are being decided by a single election. Split-ticket voting contrasts with straight-ticket voting, in which a voter chooses candidates from the same political party for every office on the ballot.

Often, states will hold elections for many different offices on the same day. This may be true of primary elections and may also include the placing of candidates for federal, state, and local offices on the same ballot. One of many possible examples of split-ticket voting in the United States is a voter who seeks to elect the Democratic Party's candidate for the Senate, the Republican Party's candidate for House of Representatives, the Green Party's candidate for County Supervisor, and the Libertarian Party's candidate for Coroner.


A recent example of split-ticket voting in the United States is the 2004 elections in Montana, where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brian Schweitzer was elected governor 50.4% to 46.0%, while incumbent Republican President George W. Bush simultaneously defeated Democrat John Kerry 59% to 39% in the state. This suggests that a large number of people voted split-tickets, selecting a Republican presidential candidate by a large margin while also selecting a Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate.

However, Democratic candidates seeking governorships in red states often hold somewhat more conservative views compared those of a typical registered Democrat, whereas Republicans running for governor in blue states often have more liberal views compared to those of an average Republican supporter elsewhere. For example, Massachusetts, despite being one of the most solidly Democratic states in national elections, elected Republican governors in 1990, 1994, 1998, and 2002.

Although less common, split-ticket voting can potentially be used as a form of tactical voting. One possible example of this is a voter who prefers candidate A but does not believe that candidate A can win the election, so the voter votes for candidate B (who may be from a different political party than candidate A) because candidate B is better than other more competitive candidates C, D, etc.

Split-ticket voting may also occur in elections where multiple voting systems are employed. One possible example of this is a voter who selects a candidate from a minority party for an office decided by a proportional representation election system and selects a candidate from a larger party for an office decided by a first past the post system.


In some elections, such as primary elections, some states refuse to accept split-tickets and force voters to select all candidates from either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. The practice is highly controversial and is often criticized as being undemocratic by opponents. As politics, issues, and voter preferences can vary vastly between national, state, and local levels, prohibitions on split-ticket voting are a significant source of cognitive dissonance for some voters, particularly independent voters and others with less party loyalty.

Other consequences of prohibitions on split-ticket voting include centralization of political power, decreased voter efficacy, misrepresentation of the political climate, and distortion of results. A recent example of this is the 2010 primary election in South Carolina in which split-ticket prohibition extended to include resolutions as well as candidates and offices. On the Republican Party Ballot, voters had the option of approving or disapproving resolutions to pass legislation protecting citizens of South Carolina from federal health insurance mandates and discouraging state spending from exceeding economic growth; these questions did not appear on the Democratic Party ballot.[citation needed]

Split ticket preferences[edit]

Split ticket voting is different from split ticket preferencing, often referred to as a "split ticket". In the latter, the candidate for political office (or the party they are standing for) will issue 'How to vote' cards or pamphlets which provide two different suggested alternatives on how voters who wish to vote for them should direct their second, third and subsequent preferences.[2][3][4]

See also[edit]