Split-ticket voting

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In Australian[1] and U.S. politics, a split ticket refers to an election in 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 up for election.

In the United States, states will often 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.

In Australia, federal elections in recent times have usually involved a House of Representatives election and a half-Senate election occurring on the same day. Most states, with the exception of Queensland and Tasmania,[2] also hold elections for both houses of parliament simultaneously. An example of split-ticket voting in Australia is a voter who gives their first preference to the Liberal Party on the House of Representatives ballot paper and to the Family First party in the Senate.

Examples (U.S)[edit]

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.

Examples (Australia)[edit]

In the 2013 election, the Senate vote for both the Liberal and Labor parties was considerably lower than their lower house vote, demonstrating that a large number of people voted for a major party in the House of Representatives and a minor party or micro-party in the Senate.[3] There are many reasons why a voter may do this, including the fact that many parties only stand candidates for the Senate (leaving their supporters unable to vote for them on their lower house ballot), the much lower quota required for election to the Senate compared to the House of Representatives (14.3% versus 50%), and a desire to check the power of the government by preventing it from controlling the Senate.

From 1978 to 2008, when the Australian Democrats held representation in the Senate, the Democrats benefited greatly from split-ticket voting, as their Senate vote was always much higher than their House of Representatives vote.[4] The party built its campaigns around "keeping the bastards honest", a reference to holding the balance of power in the Senate so as to prevent the chamber from becoming either a rubber stamp for the government or a tool of obstruction for the opposition.

Other examples[edit]

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 of a different political party from 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.

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.[5][6][7]


  1. ^ "Party Voting and Partisan Decline in Australia", Maurice Rickard, Parliamentary Fellowship. Monograph, ISBN 978-0-9752015-5-8, Commonwealth of Australia, 2007 split-ticket voting = someone votes for different parties in the House of Representatives and in the Senate
  2. ^ The Parliament of Queensland has only one house, while the Tasmanian Legislative Council is elected in staggered terms every May.
  3. ^ http://results.aec.gov.au/17496/Website/Default.htm
  4. ^ Sharman, C 1999, 'The representation of small parties and independents in the Senate', Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 353-361.
  5. ^ "Could Katter win Blair for Labor?" Joel Gould The Queensland Times, 26 August 2013
  6. ^ "Antony Green's Election Guide", ABC, 2010
  7. ^ How to vote in Australian elections A guide to preferential voting in State and Federal elections