The Myth of Down Ballot Voting



BANGOR — There has been no shortage of coverage on the presidential candidates, particularly in Maine’s second congressional district where tensions have run high and political ads have run rampant. While this can lead to increased knowledge of candidates for high-ranking positions, it can also blind voters to the issues and, with the constant stream of news on Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, distract voters from learning about third-party candidates or candidates for more local offices.

“I do think party affiliation plays into it. I don’t base one hundred percent of my decision on it, it’s really just their character and how they present themselves,” said Chris Fritz, a fourth year student at Husson University majoring in Video Production. “It’s definitely dependent on the issue.”

“I’m a Republican, but I wouldn’t just vote Republican. I’m not even voting for the Republican presidential candidate. It depends on the issue,” said Katherine Walker, a first year mass Communications Major at Husson.

An ABC News poll from October showed down-ballot Republicans losing out on votes due to lack of party loyalty toward Donald Trump. The poll showed a seven-point drop in the number of registered Republicans who are likely to vote on Election Day, spelling out losses for Republican candidates on more local levels. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight hypothesized a 68% chance of Democrats winning back the Senate due to this drop.

Walker isn’t the only one who felt unable to vote for her party’s candidate. “My vote this year was based on that fact that I didn’t like either candidate from the Republican side or the Democrat,” said Samantha Nigida, a first year Ecology and Environmental Science major at the University of Maine in Orono. “I voted third party.”

“I really didn’t feel like I knew the other candidates running for other offices and what they stood for. [I knew more about] local candidates, but I did vote with the party I am currently registered under,” she said.

Familiarity with the candidates beyond the presidential was hit or miss, according to Mike Davis, 27, of Bangor. “I have no party affiliation. I voted for what I knew, and when I didn’t know, I didn’t vote.”

Candidates for United States Representative, Republican Bruce Poliquin and Democrat Emily Cain, gained the most name recognition next to the presidential candidates. Their campaigns pushed hard throughout this election for lawn signs, television and radio ads, and public appearances — both Poliquin and Cain stood outside the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor this morning, greeting and thanking voters in a final effort to keep their names fresh in people’s minds.

“I didn’t recognize a lot of the names for city council,” said Steve Severance of Bangor. Severance noted that many of the candidates for municipal offices didn’t list party affiliations at all, leaving voters to choose someone they know little to nothing about.

“I voted on people’s policies and how they stood with mine,” said his wife, Rhonda Severance. “I used to vote based on what part of town they’re from, but now that I’m older I’m more scrupulous.” Rhonda’s presidential vote, however, wasn’t rooted in party, policy, or character.

“I didn’t like either option,” she said. “I ain’t inviting either of them to dinner.”