NewsCovering Louisiana


Undervotes: Voters aren't required to cast a vote in every race

Posted at 12:54 PM, Nov 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-19 14:18:36-05

A small group of folks on the Internet are spreading a theory based on the assumption that there is something sinister or unusual about there being different vote totals in statewide races.

They say that, because the number of votes cast in the governor's race doesn't match the votes cast in the secretary of state's race, it's evidence of tampering.

But vote totals on ballots almost never match, according to vote totals from previous elections. That's because there is no requirement that a voter make a decision in every race on their ballot. That means all voters can chose which races in which to cast a ballot.

Lafayette Registrar of Voters Charlene Meaux Menard said they're called "undervotes."

"That's when a person goes into the booth and chooses not to vote on a certain category," she explains. "You can have 10 categories on the ballot and choose to vote for only one of them."

The Secretary of State's Office called this "a non-issue," and said the difference in this past Saturday's votes was actually one of the lowest:

"Historically, there is some dropoff of votes from the top of the ticket down to lower ballot items. In fact, Saturday's 2.65% dropoff from the governor to the secretary of state was one of the lowest drop offs in recent years," a spokesman said.

Here are some examples:

In the November 2019 runoff race, there were 1,508,612 votes cast in the governor's race, and 1,468,566 votes cast in the secretary of state's race. That's a difference of 40,046 votes.

In the October 2019 primary race, there were 1,343,481 votes cast in the governor's race, and 1,286,472 votes cast in the secretary of state's race. That's a difference of 57,009. Also on that ballot, with another different total, was the lieutenant governor's race, in which 1,297,865 votes were cast.

Also on that October 2019 ballot were four constitutional amendments, and none of the vote totals matched: Voters cast 1,218,050 votes on the first one, 1,215,002 on the second one, 1,209,747 on the third one, and 1,213,393 on the fourth one.

To look at previous races and vote totals, visit the election totals page on the SOS website by clicking here.