In the 2014 General Election contest for U.S. Senate in Alabama, more than 360,000 voters left their ballot blank. The race featured incumbent Senator Jeff Session running for re-election without a named opponent printed on the ballot. The ballot did include, however, an option to vote for a write-in a candidate. On November 24, the Alabama Secretary of State certified the 2014 General Election Results, publishing the final tally of the vote as 795,606 for Republican Jeff Sessions (97.25%) and 22,484 write-ins (2.75%). The county-level result, shown at right, is a solid “>90%” in every county, with exception of Macon County, where the write-in tally just cleared 10%. Full results are available here.
Looking deeper into the data though, its clear that most voters that did not want to vote for the incumbent Senator simply left their ballots blank.
The drop-off vote from Governor to U.S. Senate (the difference in total vote between the two contests) is 362,323 votes (30.6%). The total Republican Vote for Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate contest is only 5.7% more than Republican Robert Bentley received in the Gubernatorial vote – 795,606 vs. 750,231, a difference of 43,375 – full Gubernatorial results can be seen here. At the county level, the drop-off varies considerably, from the smallest drop-off of 10.4% in Blount County to the largest of 80.5% in Greene County. A map of the results can be seen at right.
In one example, Macon County, Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Parker Griffith received 4,830 votes (85.3%) to Robert Bentley’s 829 (14.6%) and three write-in votes – a total of 5,662 votes. In the U.S. Senate contest, Jeff Sessions, picked up 1,133 votes to 127 write-ins. The number of blank votes in the U.S. Senate race relative to the Governor’s race 4,402 votes (77.8%).
Predictably, the drop-off correlates with the percentage of vote for Republican, as shown in the map to the right. The sharpness of the magnitude of this correlation may be, in part, due to the existence of the straight-party option. As seen in this sample ballot, the voter can choose Alabama Democratic Party, Alabama Independence Party, or Alabama Republican Party at the very top of the ballot under “Straight Party Voting”. If the voter chooses the “Alabama Democratic Party” option, no vote for US Senate is cast.