Leave it up to the cast of the "West Wing" to turn a rather mundane voting issue into a catastrophe so important it can only be described as "a cataclysmic event unrivaled by the likes of any calamity since the dawn of history."
With a hefty dose of walk-and-talk action, a splash of Josh Lyman drama and a lofty endorsement from President Bartlett aka Martin Sheen, the re-united cast reminds voters in November to check every box on their ballot, not just those for president and Congress, in an ad put out by Michigan Supreme Court candidate Bridget McCormack.
"This is a disaster, it's a catastrophe," says Bradley Whitford, who played deputy chief of staff Josh Lyman in the hit TV show. "People walk into the voting booth, they check the straight party ticket box and they think they've voted for everything. But they haven't. They still have to vote in the non-partisan section of the ballot."
In 15 states, voters can select the "vote straight ticket Republican" or "vote straight ticket Democrat" at the top of the ballot rather than marking their picks in each race. But because some of those states have nonpartisan races, such as state Supreme Court Justices in Michigan, that one check mark equates to leaving part of the ballot blank.
"If people fail to realize that a straight ticket vote doesn't count in nonpartisan races if they just casually vote the party line then their interest will continue to go unrepresented," President Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen, says in the ad.
Sheen, Whitford, and five other members of the "West Wing" cast star in the 4-minute ad supporting McCormack, whose sister, actress Mary McCormack, played President Bartlett's national security advisor Mary Shannon in the show.
"Just getting more people to dig in and vote is the main goal of the little piece," Bridget McCormack said. "My hope is it interests more people in the race. If they get interested in me and start supporting me that's great, but if more people just participate generally that's a huge win."
In the ad, Josh Lyman describes McCormack as a lawyer who 'spent her entire career fighting for justice for ordinary people, for families with sick kids for victims of domestic violence." Toby Ziegler, who is played by actor Richard Schiff, describes her as a "married, mother of four, dean at Michigan Law."
A shorter 3-minute version of the ad cuts out the portion about McCormack and serves as a public service announcement encouraging people to vote for every race on the ticket. According to McCormack's campaign, 27 percent of the Michigan voters who cast a ballot in 2010 did not fill out the entire thing, leaving the non-partisan races such as hers blank.
McCormack credited her sister, who most recently starred in the USA drama "In Plain Sight," for bringing her old "West Wing" crew back together for the ad. The cast has reunited only one other time since the show went off the air in 2006. The other was for a public service announcement for walking.
The spot is a web-only ad and will not air on TV. Because the actors donated their time, McCormack said the spot cost her campaign less than $5,000, which was used to pay for insurance, food and a prop or two.