Elimination of Straight Party Voting In Texas

HB 25 Elimination of Straight Party Voting

Author of HB 25 – Ron Simmons – Sponsor – Senator Kelly Hancock                                                            Signed by Governor Greg Abbott                                                                                                         Becomes effective September 1, 2020                                                                                    Repeals the following provisions of the Election Code:                                                                          Section: 1.005(20)                    Section: 52.071               Section: 64.004                                      Section:  65.007                        Section: 122.001(b)        Section: 124.001                                     Section: 124.003(d)                  Section: 124.063(d)        Section: 232.050(d)

What is straight-party voting?

Going to the polls to vote, there is a long column of candidates from each party.  The national nominees start at the top, then the state candidates, last are the local; clerks, county officials, judges which includes the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals…..Texas’s highest criminal court!

Election code, sec.1.005(20) defines a straight-party vote as a vote by a single mark, punch, or other action by the voter for all the nominees for one political party and no other candidates.

Why/Who would anyone want to eliminate such an easy step that assures that every candidate is voted for in that party?

Supporters of this bill believe it would encourage voters to more carefully consider the candidates.  Straight-party voting pulls voter’s attention away from down-ballot candidates for certain offices that most directly affect the voter. Most voters may know more about the national candidates, and a one punch vote would then cause down ballot candidates to be elected that were poorly vetted.  It is also these down ballot races that most directly affect the lives of voters on a more daily basis.

In some cases one punch causes voters to miss out on casting votes in non-partisan races or propositions.

Opponents of this bill say that party labels are an immediate set of boundaries that voters use to make their ballot decisions.  Eliminating one punch is more cumbersome, and voters should be able to vote easily.

Also believe the bill could make Texas vulnerable to lawsuits as in the August 1, 2016 Michigan bill.  A federal district court blocked the bill with higher courts declining to hear the case.  The decision to block was based on evidence showing high correlations between the size of the African-American voting population within a district and use of straight-party voting.  This district historically faced longest wait times and eliminating one punch would result in African-American voters being impacted even greater.

What about this vetting issue on the down ballot?

I found an example from 1994.  I use this one example not to bash any party, because I know it happens frequently in both, it is just a good example!                                           Steve Mansfield challenged a Democrat for the highest seat on the states criminal court of Texas.   He operated his campaign from his car, motel, and push cards.  It is believed most of the 4.5 million Texans didn’t know who Steve Mansfield was, all they knew was the party affiliation “R” and being on the same ticket as George W. Bush.

As it turns out…..he used illicit drugs in his youth, paid a fine in Florida for practicing law without a license, his reputation included conning women through personal ads, married, divorced, negligent in child support, claimed he was born and raised in Texas, but, really born and raised in Massachusetts, and, was not a criminal lawyer at all.

How did such a candidate even get on the ballot….long story short, he was not vetted by the GOP!  It takes a lot of blind faith to just vote a straight party ticket hoping the party has chosen trustworthy, honorable men/women and not just by the letter in front of their name.

Down ticket  races should be considered the MOST important races as those are the ones that personally effect our daily lives.   Those local races have more influence over our daily lives in court judgements, child custody cases, TAXES.

There is an option!

NOW is the time to begin focusing on those local races.  Know who you are voting for, included in HB25, on line 24(c) states, “The secretary of state shall prescribe the form of the ballot to allow a voter to cast a vote in each federal, state, or local race in the election.  The ballot must allow a voter to write in the name of a candidate.”                           I don’t know the qualifications or if there is a deadline for write-ins……..but get to know this new law!  Contact the Secretary of State and your local Elections Administrator.

A little history on the highest Court in Texas:
All States including the District of Columbia have at least one supreme court….also, known as the court of last resort! The exceptions are Oklahoma and Texas which have a split court system.
The Texas split evolved from legal problems facing the State in 1876, and over the years has undergone changes through Constitutional Amendments in the Texas Constitution leading up to the Court as it is today.
The two Texas Supreme Courts – The Supreme Court of Texas, handles criminal cases, with eight Judges and one Presiding Judge.
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, handles civil and criminal cases, with five Justices and one Presiding Justice.

The Court of Criminal Appeals hears cases -has intermediate appellate jurisdiction of both civil and criminal cases appealed from the lower courts in the counties of their jurisdiction.
My point is……at your “last chance or resort” you want to make sure those Judges are making decisions based on the Texas Constitution and believe in the United States Constitution! And making sure those judges are not Judging from the “heart” based strictly on social justice and their emotions!
Let’s start giving the Judges that run some of our time and a little effort in learning about who they are and what they stand for!                                                                                             Even some campaign contributions would be helpful!

The Supreme courts do not hear trials of cases. They hear appeals of the decisions made in the lower trial or appellate courts.
These Courts are the LAST CHANCE OR RESORT for decisions made in the lower courts. (Folks don’t appeal to this Court for good decisions they think were made)!

Unfortunately, when it comes to voting on the bottom end of the ballot, (and these judges are DOWN at the bottom) folks either guess or don’t vote at all because they don’t want to put someone in office not known to them!                                                                             Remember! An absent vote could automatically place the other party in office!

NOW is the time to get involved!  These folks down ticket represent WE the people!

A few ways to do some vetting of your own:

Go to the Party’s website.  Read their Party Platform!  What issues do they stand on/or not?  If you like a candidate from the other side because they don’t believe in a few of the party planks, remember $’s to that candidate still goes to support that party.

If they are an incumbent, look up their past voting record.

My soapbox issue:                                                                                                                           Our elected representatives will only represent us as  responsibly, accountably, honestly as their constituents that elect them!  So if we their constituents don’t put forth any effort to elect good reps, why should they be good to their constituents?

GET INVOLVED IN THE VOTING PROCESS!  Swamps can’t be drained when voters keep plugging up the drain!

Terry Wareham – Bastrop County TEA Party