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Bill to eliminate straight-ticket voting passes the House

Here we go again.

Rep. Ron Simmons

The Texas House late Friday night gave preliminary approval to a bill that would eliminate “one-punch” voting, forcing voters to make an individual decision on every ballot item, starting with the 2020 election.

House Bill 25, approved 85-59, could drastically change Texas politics considering straight-ticket ballots accounted for almost 64 percent of total votes cast in the state’s 10 largest counties in 2016. Forty-one states don’t allow straight-ticket voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

State Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, one of the authors of HB 25, said he filed the measure to foster more educated voters since they’d have to go down the ballot and make a decision on every race.

“I think it’ll give us better candidates and better elected officials. It won’t have people getting voted out just because of their party identity,” Simmons told The Texas Tribune on the House floor prior to Friday’s vote.

Opponents of the measure said they’re worried Simmons’ bill will lead to lower voter turnout. On the House floor, several Democrats, including state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, expressed concerns that getting rid of one-punch voting would inconvenience voters and discourage them from participating in future election.

“There are a lot of races on the ballot in these general elections, and voting individually takes extra time,” Turner said. “Instead of one-punch, you’re asking people to individually vote in dozens of races, perhaps even 100 of them. This can be a real impediment.”

[…]

Simmons, however, said that equating a high number of straight-ticket voters to civic engagement is “kind of like comparing apples or oranges.” He pushed back on Democrats who insisted that taking away one-punch voting infringed on the rights of Texans.

“People will still come out to vote, they’ll just take a few more seconds to get down the ballot. And it’ll make sure people know who they’re voting for,” he said.

It will definitely take more than a few extra seconds to vote a full ballot, especially in a big county like Harris. Making such a disingenuous argument against the concerns being raised about this bill does not do anything to relieve suspicions that it’s just a response to Democratic dominance of the big urban counties. I wrote a long piece about this when Rep. Simmons filed the same bill in 2015. My feelings haven’t changed – indeed, they haven’t changed much since 2009 when the elimination of straight ticket voting first gained prominence as a Republican priority – so go read that so I don’t have to repeat myself again.

I don’t think there’s any question that if this bill passes, it will take longer to vote, and given that only one Democrat voted for HB25 while only five or six Republicans voted against it, both parties have a pretty good guess about who will be more affected by that. Those concerns, along with talk of future lawsuits, were mentioned in the Chron story about this bill. It would be quite simple for Rep. Simmons to address those concerns if he wanted to. Extend and expand early voting, with more locations and longer hours and more days (*), mandate more voting machines at every polling place, and expand eligibility to vote by mail. Do that, and put up the money to help counties cover the extra costs, and I’ll drop all my objections. Until then, I question the motive behind this. Matt Angle of the Lone Star Project, writing in Medium, has more.

(*) Republicans have also tried to limit early voting in the past, again after an election where Democrats did well. Limits on early voting were a part of the vote-suppression tactics in places like North Carolina as well. If Republicans don’t want bills like HB25 to be seen as an attack on the ability to vote, it’s on them to understand and address the concerns that these bills raise.

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14 Comments

  1. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Republicans loved straight ticket voting when they were the ones using it, now it seems they don’t like it as much.

    They are all like Trump, con men with a few women and minorities scattered among them.

  2. Paul A Kubosh says:

    Why would the Republicans eliminate straight ticket voting? Doesn’t make sense to me. I guess there is a study somewhere that says Republicans are more likely to go ahead and vote down the ballot for all the judges and that Democrats are less likely to do so?

    Neither, such anger. “all” like Trump? Your sentence makes me want to vote Democrat. Very persuasive.

  3. voter_worker says:

    I doubt that many voters, R or D, are going to appreciate being forced to wade through the judicial races. Expect a significant increase in undervoting. The expectation that this will lead to voters taking the time and effort to research candidates has no basis in reality.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Good. Maybe people will do a little more candidate research for a change.

  5. Jason Barnes says:

    Why not allow both? Straight ticket with opposite party selections / deselected choices made as the voter sees fit.

  6. Jason – You can do that now. Hitting the “straight ticket” button on an eSlate machine simply fills in that party’s candidate in every race for which there is such a candidate. You can then vote in races where there wasn’t a candidate from that party (if there are any) and you can change the selection in any other race, either to another candidate or to no candidate.

    What this bill would do is take away that option to hit one button and fill in all those races. If you were planning to vote mostly one way anyway, this means you’ll have to spend a lot more time casting your votes.

  7. Jason Barnes says:

    Thank you for clarifying, I’ve never attempted it.

  8. Greg Wythe says:

    VW,

    Before anyone goes off thinking that the current party in power is interested in making things easier for voters, here’s one way of looking at how straight ticket voters differ from non-straight ticket voters.

    Feel free to either figure out or ignore the slew of numbers (click to enlarge, if so). The color coding is intended to show which party won a variety of elections among all voters and among non-straight ticket votes.

    Several caveats go with this. There is more than one way to analyze this. And there is some flakiness with the voting machine tabulation – namely, if you vote straight ticket one party and then go change every individual race to the other party, it still counts you as voting straight party for the one you didn’t support any candidates for. There’s also a column that shows how each group drops off (% Among Pres). This shows how much dropoff there presently is *with the STV option.*

    I know from prior research that we saw something in the ballpark of 70% straight party voting in heavily AfrAm precincts and roughly 20 points less elsewhere. But I don’t think you need me to suggest that Republican officials might be trying to diminish the influence of minority voters. 😉

  9. Tom says:

    Yeah, eliminating the straight ticket option is probably a bigger deal in a large county with lots of races than in a small county with just a handful.

    That said, Republican elected officials must be very confident that eliminating it would be a net win for them.

  10. General Grant says:

    I agree with this bill, but let’s get real. The actual problem here is having way too many elected offices, many of them obscure, to reasonably expect voters to have an informed and reasoned opinion on eacjmh one. Simply getting the judges off the ballot would go a long way to making this better.

  11. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Paul, that type of argument that I made has always been effective with Republicans, I don’t think too many Democrats would fall for it.

    All I am doing is hanging Trump on the Republicans, the longer he stays there the longer the corruption of the swamp flows down to all Republicans. Aren’t the Republicans still using Bill Clinton as Bogey Man? If you support a Republican you support Trump and the Russians that put him there.

  12. Paul Kubosh says:

    Bill Clinton was not the Bogey man. He balanced the budget for goodness sake. I would vote for that guy again. Just not his wife.

  13. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Paul you must not be a Republican, as the Republicans constantly keep attacking him. Yes I agree he did an excellent job as president especially with the economy.

  14. paul a kubosh says:

    I am a fiscal and social conservative or some people may call me a populist. The Republican party campaigns that way but doesn’t deliver. As a whole a bunch of traitors. Clinton (with an assist by Newt Gingrich) balanced the budget. George Bush got elected and immediately blew up the budget. Really pissed me off. You know who said on the Radio that George Bush grew the non-war part of the budget by 40%? Dan Patrick.

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