Texas bill would outlaw straight-ticket voting

Voters cast their ballots at a polling station in East Austin, Texas, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

December 13, 2010 10:22:09 AM PST
State Sen. Jeff Wentworth said the straight party ticket method is "lazy" voting and he wants the 2011 Texas Legislature to join more than a dozen other states and ban the option. Wentworth, as he's done unsuccessfully in previous sessions, has prepared a bill that would outlaw straight-ticket voting in Texas, The Dallas Morning News reported Monday.

"We're not England," said Wentworth, a Republican from San Antonio, in pointing out the British system of voting along party lines. "Straight-ticket voting is a detriment to our system and not the way it was designed to be."

Straight-party voting allows a voter to make one choice, voting for all members of a designated political party as listed on the ballot.

"We're in favor of giving voters an option, not taking options from voters," said Chris Elam, a spokesman for the Texas Republican Party.

Democratic leaders agree.

"It's critical that we preserve the option," Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirsten Gray said. "Our voters take pride in voting the Democratic ticket, and over the past decade, more and more Texans have chosen to vote the straight ticket."

State Rep. Dan Branch, a Republican from Dallas, says voters should be asked to make individual choices throughout the ballot and not engage in "AK-47" voting.

The straight-ticket system often causes logistical and mechanical problems, while confusing voters who want to amend ballots after voting strictly along party lines, Branch said.

Referendums are sometimes overlooked by people who vote the party line and then leave, he said.

"If you want to go through the list and select every member of your party, then knock yourself out," Branch said. "I'm happy to give people convenience, but I want more people to actually vote and make decisions up and down the ballot. I'm not sure it helps our democracy when we can do this machine-gun fire with one vote."

For the previous legislative session, Branch carried a House bill that would have abolished straight-ticket voting. He said he has another piece of legislation prepared, but will file it only if he determines it has a chance to become law.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Democrat from Dallas who has served as vice chairman of the House Elections Committee, supports giving voters the straight-ticket option.

"I don't see a reason to change," Anchia said. "Straight-ticket voting cuts both ways, and voters are clearly stating their intent and do so proudly. I don't think we should remove that option."


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