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Is Virginia's Habit Of Ticket Splitting A Thing Of The Past?

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Most states elect a governor and a lieutenant governor as a ticket. But Virginia has an unusual system of letting voters decide.

Mark Rozell at George Mason University's Schar School says voters in Virginia have a long history of splitting the ticket. "Famously in Virginia in 1993 when the Republican candidate for governor, George Allen, won by a landslide, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor lost by a landslide. There was a huge disconnect between voting for the top of the ticket and the undercard," Rozell remembers.

In 2005, voters chose Democrat Tim Kaine to be governor and Republican Bill Bolling as Lieutenant Governor.

But that was a long time ago, says Jatia Wrighten at Virginia Commonwealth University. "You have to be pretty well informed to know the specific policies of each of the candidates versus using a party approach to choosing candidates," Wrighten notes. "And so not that it's impossible, but I highly doubt in this political climate that people are looking more at specific policy platforms of individual candidates versus voting based on party."

Sometimes voters choose an attorney general from a different party than the candidate who wins the race for governor. In that same 2005 election when Democrat Tim Kaine became governor, Republican Bob McDonnell won his election to be attorney general.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.