In 2000, the election turned on numerous voting irregularities in Florida. In 2004, attention shifted to Ohio, home of the Diebold voting machine manufacturer.

Now, North Carolina is under the national microscope.

In Florida’s ‘butterfly ballot” debacle of 2000, voters in Palm Beach County were so confused by the odd layout that many appear to have voted for the wrong candidate by mistake. At the time, there was a lot of talk about improving ballot design. Eight years later there are still far too many badly done ballots. North Carolina may have the country’s worst. It is already causing confusion with early voters. And if the presidential race is close, it could change the outcome.

The editorial goes on to explain something that must be repeated, loud and clear: If you vote a straight party ticket, you MUST also vote for a particular choice for president if you want your presidential vote to count.

(The Times notes that N.C. Dems have only themselves to blame for this rule, which was created in the 1960s to preserve Democratic control of state offices even as people began voting for Republican presidential candidates.)

The consequences of North Carolina’s badly designed ballot, the Times warns, could be that tens of thousands of presidential votes (for Obama, especially) will be nullified. The complete editorial is here.