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Texas Bill to Abolish Straight-Ticket Device on Ballots

Published on November 22, 2010, by in General.

Texas legislators are already introducing bills for the 2011 session.  State Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) has introduced SB 139, to abolish the straight-ticket device.

4 Responses

  1. Brad M.

    I applaud the move and find it very interesting and curious.

    My guess is that Wentworth believes the Republican sheep will do a better job than the Democratic sheep in voting without straigh-party options.

    I wonder if the bill will pick up any co-sponsors and support.

  2. I hope it gets support, I fully support eliminating straight-party options on ballots, lets introduce at least some bit of educated voting. I also think we need to do away with Primary Elections (at least state-mandated and funded primaries) but that is another topic in and of itself.

  3. Martin K.

    Excellent. I’m glad to see someone is finally trying to put an end to this idiotic practice. Hopefully this will stir up a little more support for independent and 3rd party candidates that typically get passed over by straight-ticket voters.

  4. Jim Riley

    This has been proposed in the past. In 2009, it did get out of committee – but in Texas that really doesn’t mean too much. With a relatively short session every two years, there are way too many bills to get considered by the legislative chambers, so almost any bill can get a hearing, and a large number get voted out, with knowledge that there is not a realistic chance of the bills getting a 2nd reading.

    Senator Wentworth usually relates the story when he was trying to be elected Bexar County Judge, after he had been elected county commissioner. His commissioner’s precinct included the Black section of San Antonio, and despite his best efforts he received few votes in that area. People who were helping in his campaign then explained that voters never saw his name on the ballot, because they simply voted a straight ticket – which is especially easy on a paper ballot. “Vote 1 and be done” “Vote 2 and you’re through” are references to the ballot position of the straight ticket box.

    Texas is forcing more local elections to be coincident with the general elections, and the straight ticket has no effect on non-partisan elections, nor on ballot issues, or on special elections which are conducted using the Top 2 format.

    In the past, there has been an insistence that special election races be placed at the top of the ballot, because straight-ticket voters would otherwise miss them.

    Straight ticket voting doesn’t play well with the DRE devices that are used in Texas. Straight ticket voting assumes dumb paper ballots and smart voters. While DRE devices assume smart devices and dumb voters. The way you un-vote on the device is to select an item a second time, just like you would on a check box on any conventional computer GUI.

    The DREs are programmed to force you to scroll through all the races. But if you had only voted the straight ticket item (which is the first thing on the ballot), then it could appear that you had skipped a race, So the candidates of the party who had been voted for with the straight ticket are highlighted just as if they had been voted individually. Select such a candidate a second time, and the vote is cleared, just as if you had selected a candidate and then later changed your mind.

    Democrats have claimed in the past that voters have argued in the past that these were “emphasis” votes or “make sure” votes, which also make it hard for corrupt election officials to change a vote. At the same time, they insist that a single straight ticket box is OK. Long-time Republican voters who remember when elections were by paper ballot, and Democrats controlled all elections, wonder why anyone would be so foolish to not mark a choice on every race.

    So to really try to determine voter intent, you would have to actually record their actions, and not their final ballot as you would with a paper ballot.

    Democrats will make a lot of really silly arguments. They will ask what would happen if they happened to carefully went through the candidates and decided that they liked all the Democrats, shouldn’t it be easy to vote for all them (never mind that the Democrats nominated a congressional candidate this year who was calling for the impeachment of Barrack Obama). When asked what do they do for the party primary, where there is no straight ticket, they have no answer.

    Or they argue that there will be long lines. But this assumes insufficient DREs. But if there are not enough DREs, then how do election officials allocate them among election precincts?

    Do they allocate them on the basis of number of voters? If they do that, then areas with fewer straight ticket voters may encounter longer lines.

    If they allocate them on the basis of past voter tendencies, then areas with straight-ticket voters will have fewer DREs, and essentially be coerced to straight ticket vote. This could be especially troubling if these areas are racially identifiable.

    Straight ticket voting may lead to vote coercion. With some voters urging others to just vote straight-ticket voting so that they “all could get out of there”. Or straight ticket voters may be readily identifiable by the time they take to vote.

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