No more straight-ticket voting?

January 5, 2009 4:13:55 AM PST
A San Antonio state senator wants to revive efforts to eliminate the straight-ticket voting option, even after Texans hit a 10-year high in the percentage of ballots sticking entirely with one party. Republican Sen. Jeff Wentworth plans a second run at deleting the straight-ticket option during the legislative session that starts Jan. 13. His repeal proposal didn't advance in 2007.

"Both political parties need to stop being quite so partisan," Wentworth said in Sunday's editions of the Austin American-Statesman.

Texas Democratic Party spokesman Hector Nieto said straight-ticket voting was "a good thing for both parties" and accused Republicans of trying to disrupt the inroads Democrats have made in urban counties, notably Harris and Dallas counties.

"It's clear Republicans have seen Democrats organizing in a better manner and using straight-ticket voting to our advantage," Nieto said. "Instead of competing, they just want to do away with it."

Wentworth said his proposal had nothing to do with giving either party an advantage. Rather, he said, Texas needs to join the majority of U.S. states in not allowing straight-ticket voting. Nationally, 16 states offer the option. Five states have repealed it since 1994.

The straight-ticket option has been mentioned in Texas law since 1911.

If a voter wants to favor every Republican or Democrat on a ballot, "that's fine with me," Wentworth said.

"I'm not trying to tell them how to vote," he said. "I'm just saying they ought to be more informed by seeing the name."

Wentworth acknowledged that his interest in the issue goes back three decades when he was running for Bexar County Commissioners Court. Despite working for support from black voters, he said he didn't draw much. He found out later that some who voted a straight ticket said they would have voted for him had they seen his name.

The state GOP had no comment on Wentworth's proposal. Patrick Dixon, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Texas, said his party supports removing the straight-ticket choice.

"It's not a monumental issue," Dixon said. "But the sense is when a lot of people vote, they check the party and don't go down the ballot and look at the candidates. We think people should value the candidates more than the party."

Straight-ticket voting represented nearly 58 percent of votes cast in Texas in November, according to Austin Community College's Center for Public Policy and Political Studies. Voters going straight Republican outnumbered those on the Democratic side by 1.3 percent. That was the GOP's smallest straight-ticket edge since 1998, the center said.

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