I wrote a piece for National Review Online today about an obscure voting quirk on ballots in North Carolina — straight-ticket voting for either party does not include the presidential contest. Voters must make a separate vote for John McCain or Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe bully who pulls the levers of Trump's mind never learns US-China space cooperation is up in the air more than ever GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level MORE.

As Mike Baker of The Associated Press's Raleigh bureau points out, "Democrats created the straight-ticket law in the 1960s. More conservative than the national Democratic Party, state Democrats feared that relatively liberal candidates at the top of the ticket might reduce their appeal among straight-ticket voters, so they made sure the presidency would be a separate question for voters."

No doubt about it, the law could hurt Barack Obama's chances in the state. Many first-time voters will leave the voting booth under the impression they had voted for EVERY Democrat on the ticket, including Obama. It's hard to blame those voters — common sense would dictate that a straight-party vote would include every candidate of that party. Of course, common sense doesn't always have a place in politics!

There could be a real impact from these undervotes. In 2004, North Carolina had a higher undervote percentage (voting in down-ballot races, but not for president) than the national average. Having the state's undervote percentage below the national average cost some 18,000 votes in the presidential race. That didn't mean much in 2004, but in 2008 it can be the difference between winning and losing.

The flip-side question is interesting, too. How many Democratic voters will punch the ballot for Obama without voting in any other races? With the Senate and gubernatorial races neck and neck, anything could happen.