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What is split-ticket voting?

Split-ticket voting is the practice of voting for more than one political party on a ballot. During any election there will be federal, state, and local offices on the same ballot. You can vote for your political party all the way through. On the other hand, you can ‘split’ your vote between different political parties. For instance, this could mean giving a vote to the Republican candidate for a Senate seat and a vote to the Green Party candidate for the presidency.

How common is it?

Ticket-splitting is a fascinating phenomenon because many people have a deep-rooted attachment to their political party and voting for another party may feel like a betrayal. This may be why split-voting has become less and less common among Americans. According to a 2018 study by FiveThirtyEight, more and more voters are casting straight-ticket ballots. The researchers looked at the median difference between the margin of victory in statewide Senate and governor races in midterm elections. The overall trend that this study shows is a steady decline in split-ticket voting since 1998. However, there are exceptions, such as the 2004 elections in Montana, where Democratic candidate Brian Schweitzer was elected governor 50.4% to 46.0%, while incumbent Republican President George W. Bush won over Democrat John Kerry 59% to 39%. This suggests that a large number of voters split their vote, choosing a Republican presidential candidate and a Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate.

Why do people split their vote?

What may not be as simple as finding the statistics is answering the question of why people split their vote? There are a few different theories. One is the incumbency advantage: a politician currently in office has more visibility and easier access to campaign finance. More often than not, an incumbent politician will have an advantage over a newcomer, as mentioned in the article above. For example, someone could vote Democrat for the open seat in the House of Representatives because that is their chosen party, they may vote Republican for Senate IF the incumbent Senator is Republican, thus splitting their vote.

Another theory as to why people split their vote is tactical voting. This is when a person does not vote for their ideal candidate because that candidate has a low chance of winning. The voter instead supports another, more popular candidate (who may belong to a different political party) because they prefer that candidate to the other popular, opposing candidate. In other words, a voter may split their vote by strategically voting for a different party’s candidate so as to pick the lesser of two evils.

Not sure if you are splitting your vote or even who you’re voting for? Check out VotingSmarter’s #CandidateMatchmaker which can give you unbiased voting tools to help you decide which candidates match your ideologies!

(Contributed by Jen Zavala, Multimedia Content Creator, VotingSmarter)

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