Monday, October 31, 2011

How to Use Your Ballot

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of the election guide I'm preparing for my readers. I have invited both the Kennedy and Ballard camp to make their case in a guest posting on this blog. I've also sat down with several City-County Council candidates, and am sending out e-mail surveys for others. But first, I contacted the Marion County Clerk's Office, which is currently run by Beth White, a Democrat.

I asked the Clerk's office several scenarios and how to properly fill out a ballot in each scenario. To appear completely unbiased, they use stuff like "the Purple Party" or what have you.

Each entry in this election guide will be tagged with "Election Guide". I'll also start a Page (on the right hand side of this blog) that will link to all Election Guide entries.

Remember, you need to bring your photo ID to vote in Indiana. For additional information on voting, visit Indiana Voters or contact the Clerk's office.

1. How can someone only vote for one political party's candidates?
The simplest way to cast a vote for one party's candidates is to use the straight party device. A voter would darken the oval next to political party's name, which means a vote will be cast for every candidate on the ballot for that particular party. (Do not darken the party emblem or underline the party name, which occasionally happens and does not capture the person's vote.) There is no need to darken the oval next to the candidates if you are using the straight party device and only want to support candidates of one particular party. However, a voter can choose to skip the straight party device and darken ovals next to every candidate of the same party.

2. How can someone vote in races and spread their vote across several political candidates/parties?
Instead of using the straight party device, the voter would darken the oval next to the individual candidates they are supporting regardless of party affiliation. Another option is to 'scratch.' This means a voter would use the straight party device but also cast a vote for a different party in one or more races. For example, Vicky Voter is supporting all of the Orange Party candidates except in the dogcatcher race. She wants to vote for Yellow Party's candidate. Vicky could darken the oval on the Orange Party's straight party device and then darken the oval next to the Yellow Party's dogcatcher candidate. The machine will read the ballot as a vote for every Orange Party candidate except for the dogcatcher race where the Yellow Party candidate gets her vote. Her other option would be to skip the straight party device and simply darken the ovals next to each individual candidate she is supporting.

3. Can a "straight ticket" voter vote in a race if their party isn't running a candidate in it? If so, how?
Yes. Let's say the Blue Party has candidates in all but the dogcatcher's race. Only the Orange and Yellow parties have dogcatcher candidates. A voter can darken the oval next to the Blue Party's straight party option and then select either the Orange or Yellow party's candidate for dogcatcher. The machine will read this ballot as a vote for every Blue Party candidate except in the dogcatcher's race where either the Orange or Yellow party candidate the voter selected will receive the vote.

4. It's my understanding that there is at least one write-in candidate in at least one of the races this year. What is the process of voting for a write-in candidate if the voter chooses to do so?
To vote for a write-in candidate, a voter darkens the oval next to the write-in option and writes in the candidate's name on the line provided. Only those candidates that have declared themselves to be a write-in candidate (or another declared candidate for that office) will have their votes counted. The official list of write-in candidates should be made available at theclerk's table on Election Day.


  1. Matt,
    Its also VERY important to let the voters know, If they scratch in a race with multiple candidates, they have to fill in the ovals for each candidate they want to vote for. For example:
    Vicky Voter wants the Blue Party except she likes Yellow party at large candidate,Mary Smith. Vicky gets to vote for up to 4 in the at large race. Vicky needs to remember if she votes straight ticket for the Blue party and scratches for Mary, it will void ALL the blue party candidates in that race because the computer doesn't know which blue candidate to get rid of so she can vote for Mary. So if she wants to vote for 4 in that race, she'll have to fill in the ovals for each candidate in that race. If not, in this case, she'll be voting for all blue party candidates except for a single vote in the at large race(out of a possible 4) for Mary in the yellow party. So to get all 4 votes, she'll have to vote for each candidate in that race individually.

  2. I will be curious to see if either the Ballard or Kennedy camp get back to you.

  3. Oh Zach, I wonder why you want people to know that :) I'll make sure to edit that into the post.

    Guy, I actually think I have a pretty good "working relationship" with people in both the GOP and the Democrats and am pretty confident they'll at least respond.


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