The Danger Of The Courtesy Vote

Bryan Dubois
Mar 23, 2010


Karl Hungus in the Mayor/Ward Vs. City Commission Thread:

Hungus's comment reminded me of November 2008 voting results:

Kevin Baxter isn't an "idiot."  He's a shrewd politician and he, along with several individuals in Erie County who back him politically, have the county in a stranglehold.

I inserted the data for Barb Johnson as proof that uninformed voters do more harm to the community than self serving politicians.  (Erie County is one of the last remaining court systems without online records, and yet somehow Johnson still gets 60.16% of the vote.)

Fess up, people. 

How many of you went into that voter box and cast "courtesy votes" simply because the candidate was running unopposed?

Do you realize that those individuals can turn around and claim beaucoup political support and use your courtesy vote as proof of their popularity?

Though it's impossible to speak what is on the minds of 30,000 voters, it's hard to believe that each one of those people would've voted for an unopposed candidate if he/she actually had to campaign against someone.  But still, an unopposed candidate gets 100% of the vote, so why that person recieved those votes is irrelevent.  The only thing you can do is send a message of non-support by leaving the ballot card blank.



Nearly 8,000 (around 20%) didn't give him the courtesy vote.  Just another way of looking at it.  I wonder if it is so much that people think he is unbeatable or if it just isn't that great of a job for a good attorney.

Bryan Dubois

I think would-be opponents believe he's unbeatable because he's so deeply entrenched.

John Doe

The only time I cast a "courtesy vote" is if I think the candidate is doing an excellent job in office.  Now let me think here, when was the last time I cast a courtesy vote?.........................let's must have been.................nope, never!  Because incumbents don't deserve a courtesy vote especially elected officials like Baxter.

And as for Johnson winning over Schaeffer, that just goes to show how STUPID the voters of Erie County are.  They just look for the "D" after the name and that is who gets their votes without doing their homework on the candidates.  Also, since Obama was running for president, there was a much higher black turnout, and so the blacks voted for Johnson because she is black.  They didn't care that she wasn't doing her job (and according to Remove Johnson web site , she still isn't doing her job! She received an "F" in her "report card!"). That is "blind voting" is just plain STUPID!  "Courtesy Voting" is just as stupid!  People need to do their homework at election time and vote with their brains instead of with their hearts.  Otherwise, they shouldn't vote.

I like the fact that someone has a website about Johnson.  I wish there were sites on EVERY elected official, including Baxter!  That sure would make doing homework before election time alot easier.

City Girl

I like Huron2009's way of looking at this issue, but I think the number of voters in Erie County exceeds 38,000 voters.  How many people didn't vote for Baxter?  Does anyone have a good reason why he hasn't run opposed in all this time?

Oliver Hardy

I have to agree with most of what John Doe wrote but don't vote for somebody because they have an (R) behind their name. You had 55,185 registered voters in Erie county. Of these a little over 41,700 chose to cast ballots. Mr. Baxter received 30,624. Of those voting, over 11,000 did not vote for him. Of the registered voters, almost 25,000 did not vote for Baxter. My opinion is don't give out courtesy votes because there is only one name on the ballot. You do not need to put a check mark on everything on a ballot. No poll worker is going to tell you that your ballot is unacceptable because it is not completed. If I am undecided about a candidate or issue, then I leave it blank.



I agree that to not give a courtesy vote is the way to go if you do not like the person who is running, however, it doesn't really matter in the long run. If there is only one person running and that person only gets 1 vote because people are not giving courtesy votes then that person will still win the seat. The answer is to get more people to run against this person in order to give the people more choices.

Bryan Dubois

Gray,  it does matter.  It matters because politics is perception.

If a would-be opposer examines the vote results and sees that approximately 38,000 citizens voted in the Clerk of Courts race - and then notices that only 3 or 4,000 gave courtesy votes to Kevin Baxter, a would be-opposer can assume that around 35,000 people chose not to give Baxter their "courtesy vote" - and one would more likely run against Baxter because one can deduce that Baxter is not as popular as some believe.


If Baxter and the Democratic party can say, "Out of 38,000 voters, Mr. Baxter still got 30,000 votes, so citizens obviously approve of the job that he's doing, because they could've let the ballot card blank."

The Democrats would be spinning the reason he recieved the courtesy votes, because the voters may have done it out of ignorance or in your case because there are people who fill in the little circle because they think, "Oh, it doesn't matter if I leave this blank, Mr. Baxter is going to win the election anyway." 

Politics is about perception, and some perceptions are built months - sometimes years in advance of an actual campaign.


I will give you that one, however, that is not the way the majority of voters think or vote. Maybe they should include on the ballot the words, "If you don't want to vote for someone do not fill in the square". This might inform more people that they do not have to vote for someone they do not think can do the job.

Bryan Dubois

The board of elections would never allow something like that to happen.  If you vote, it's assumed that you've taken the time to understand who you're voting for.

A more realistic and powerful approach would be to actually campaign against an unopposed candidate by placing yard signs out that say something like:

"Leave It Blank -- For Erie County Prosecutor"

Start a campaign for people to "leave it blank" -- and the campaign might start media interest in the fact that citizens are upset enough to start a campaign like this.  You start a website that explains the principles behind what you're doing and the purpose and if enough people take part in the campaign,  an attorney in the area may decide to run for prosecutor because he/she sees a lot of dissatisfaction with the way Mr. Baxter is running his office.   This seems unrealistic right now because some people fear Baxter so mudh that they would never put a sign in their front yard for fear of retaliation.  But anyway, this is how politics works.  Nobody will run unless they have real confidence in victory. 

Another idea would be for an attorney to simply put his name on the ballot just to force Baxter to campaign.  The opposer could simply decide not to campaign just to see what happens.


The data shown for the two candidates was really incomplete. To truly assess the "courtesy vote" some criteria should be utilized to show those who abstained from voting for either (or the uncontested) candidate(s).

For example, let's say that in Erie County 45,000 registered voters cast a ballot for President of the United States. Now, if 30, 624 cast a vote for County Prosecutor, then more than 14,000 voters abstained (or refused to vote for the listed candidate.)

In the absence of a major candidate's numbers to make a comparison, then maybe a local tax issue can be used as a benchmark. Simply put, some analysis can be used to determine the number of voters who chose not to vote for one reason or another.

Abstaining from making a vote, is a vote and should be recognized in some manner. Being able to say that "only 69% of Erie County voters voted for the unopposed candidate" can be a revealing tool for those who might choose to run against them in the next election.

We will never see "None of the Above" on a ballot. Bureaucrats are too smart to allow that. However, some casual analysis might go a long way towards revealing weak or unpopular candidates.

Bryan Dubois

Couldn't have said that any better.  Thank you,.