How is it possible that former Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Alvin Greene could go from 25+% of the vote in a statewide contest to 1% of the vote running in his own hometown? Alvin Greene attained 28% of the vote for U.S. Senate in 2010, yet he obtained only 37 votes in the Democratic Party primary for SC House of Representatives District 64.
The answer is: there is no straight ticket vote in a primary election.
Analysis of the November 2010 election for U.S. Senate shows that 88% of Alvin Greene’s voters were straight-ticket Democratic votes. The 11.6% of Greene’s vote that did not choose the straight ticket likely chose him because he was the Democratic nominee – and not on account of his performance and policies.
Greene’s vaporous campaign for the state house relied entirely on voter recognition from his Senate run. As the AP story makes clear, in an election that required local campaigning, a non-campaign came up short:
“This is probably who you know and who knows you kind of thing. It’s a rural area where most people probably know personally who they are voting for,” said Cal Land, chairman of the Clarendon County Democratic Party.
And not a lot of people knew Greene. Out of the more than 20 voters an Associated Press reporter talked to Tuesday, none said they voted for Greene and none knew him personally or had even run into him around the area.
It is ironic then and a sad statement on democracy in South Carolina, that campaigning accounts for so little in a statewide run for office.
Green Party nominee Tom Clements was by and large ignored by the national media, while Greene enjoyed frequent, if repetitive, articles on his non-campaign. In any appraisal of the candidates for Senate that considers the funds raised, endorsements sought and received, meetings attended, interviews and issues addressed, Tom Clements was the campaigning alternative to Jim DeMint.
The shallowing effect of the straight ticket is obvious. By ensuring that Greene would receive the majority of votes from self-identfied Democratic voters, the straight-ticket device created the appearance of a two-person race. Only the straight-ticket device could make the 2010 Democratic nominee the foremost challenger to Jim DeMint. The straight ticket device is an impediment to democracy in South Carolina.