Tag Archives: straight-ticket voting

No straight-ticket voting this year … woo hoo!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Here is a story that went virtually unreported in the just-completed 2020 presidential election.

It occurred in Texas and it is this: Texans just voted in their first presidential election without having the option of punching a straight-ticket spot on the ballot.

Yep, for the first time, Texans had go down the ballot and vote race by race for the candidates of their choice. Count me as one happy Texas voter to salute the wisdom of the Texas Legislature for scrapping the straight-ticket option.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in 2017.

Straight-ticket voting has bugged me beyond reason ever since we moved to Texas in 1984. And the truth is that my dislike of this practice has nothing to do with the fact that Republicans have been the primary beneficiary of this lazy-voter style of ballot-casting. I just want to lay that out there for all to see.

Democrats used to benefit from this practice before they surrendered power to Republicans in the late 1970s and 1980s.

It has bothered me that Texans could walk into their polling booth, hit a single “all-Republican” or “all-Democrat” spot on their ballot. Then they’re done. They exit the polling place feeling smug and proud that they did their civic duty.

But … did they?

I long have argued that if people want to vote for candidates of a single party they should be required to look along the entire ballot and mark the spot next to their candidates’ names. Voters should be able to take a few extra minutes to ponder the decision they make.

I have been yammering about Donald Trump’s petulance over the result of the presidential election. I am glad to say something good about how Texas conducted its election, which was to get rid of straight-ticket voting.

Didn’t miss this spot on the ballot

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My wife and I did our patriotic duty earlier this week and voted in the Texas general election.

Do you know what I did not miss? I did not miss the spot on the ballot that would have allowed me to vote for all candidates of just one party.

The Texas Legislature was bitten by the Bug of Wisdom when it eliminated the straight-ticket spot on our ballots. I normally am critical of the Legislature for this and/or that issue, but they got this one right.

This year I was forced to go down the ballot race by race, name by name. I’ve never voted straight-party in all my years living in Texas. I wouldn’t have punched that spot on the ballot this year were I given the chance.

I did leave a few ballot spots blank. I did, though, walk through each race and I looked carefully at several of the races before making my selection.

That’s the way all of us should vote. I long have detested straight-ticket voting and I have argued for years that it should be eliminated from the ballot in Texas.

I’m glad the Legislature finally listened to me. Therefore, I will take all the credit I deserve.

You’re welcome.

Straight-party voting needs to go

Do not seek to bring back straight-ticket voting!

I will get straight to the point with this blog post.

South Texas Democrats have rocks in their noggins if they intend to argue that the elimination of straight-ticket, partisan voting is unconstitutional and that it discriminates against minority voters.

Readers of High Plains Blogger know that I detest straight-ticket voting. The Texas Legislature finally — as in finally — saw the light in 2017 and eliminated the provision that allows voters to walk into the polling booth and punch straight “Democrat” or straight “Republican.” Wham! That’s it! Then you get to leave.

A lawsuit filed in Webb County by the Texas Democratic Party and Webb County Democrats seeks to bring the practice back. They didn’t like the long lines that slowed the voting process to a crawl in many urban areas. Many voters, namely African-Americans and Latinos, stood in line for as long as eight or nine hours waiting to vote.

How come? I guess because voters ahead of them were taking the time to examine the ballots carefully before casting their votes.

What is wrong with that? Nothing, I tell ya!

I have argued for years that if Texans want to vote straight ticket, then they should be allowed to do so only after they examine each ballot entry. I also have argued that straight-ticket voting has resulted in qualified office seekers and incumbents losing their election or re-election efforts simply because they belong to the “wrong” political party. In recent years it’s been Democrats who suffer the most. In earlier times, Republicans suffered the same fate.

Allowing straight-ticket voting in Texas, in my mind, contributes to the continued dumbing down of the electorate.

Texas Republicans who argued for a change in the law had it right when they argued that disallowing straight-ticket voting would produce a more enlightened voting public.

I happen to agree with that logic. The current system doesn’t require voters to study the issues and the candidates. It just gives them more incentive to do so. If they want to vote for every candidate of a single party, then they are still allowed to do so.

That is where the unconstitutionality argument breaks down for me.

Therefore, South Texas Democrats do have rocks in their heads.

Good riddance, straight-ticket voting

My hatred of straight-ticket voting has been chronicled numerous times on this blog and even during the time I worked for a living.

It is one of the curses that have infected Texas government. It’ll be gone before the 2020 presidential election, thanks to a repeal enacted by the Texas Legislature.

According to the Texas Tribune, the demise of straight-ticket voting didn’t happen soon enough to save the careers of dedicated public servants.

The Tribune singled out what happened to Harris County Judge Ed Emmitt, whose leadership helped Harris County recover from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Emmitt, a moderate Republican, drew bipartisan praise for his post-Harvey work. He lost re-election this past week, though, to a political novice, 27-year-old Democratic challenger Lina Hidalgo, who the Tribune reports had never attended a Commissioners Court meeting before defeating the incumbent judge.

She benefited from straight-ticket voting, along with other Democrats appearing on down-ballot races in the midterm election.

This is precisely why I detest the practice of allowing voters to punch the straight-party slot on the ballot. Too many politicians who should be elected or re-elected are bounced out simply because of party loyalty.

The major beneficiary of this travesty in Texas in recent years have been GOP politicians, with worthy Democrats falling victim to voters’ polling place laziness.

That’s going to change in 2020. The demise of straight-ticket voting at the very least will force voters to look at each race on the ballot and make their choices individually. My hope, but not necessarily my expectation, would be that voters would consider their choice before making it.

Most states disallow straight-ticket voting. Texas, therefore, is joining a long list of states that have thought better about allowing voters to go just with the party without considering the merits of an individual candidate — whose performance or philosophy might not adhere strictly to a political party’s platform.

The end of straight-ticket voting, in my view, is a win for the cause of good government.


Straight-ticket voting and the Trump coattail effect

Buried near the end of a typically excellent Texas Tribune analysis by Ross Ramsey, is an item that sent chills up my spine.

It reads: Straight-ticket voting accounted for 64 percent of all voting in the state’s ten largest counties in the 2016 general election. If that holds in 2018, almost two-thirds of the vote will be cast with more attention to party than person.

Ramsey’s analysis talks about the candidate whose name isn’t on the ballot: Donald J. Trump. If Trump’s approval numbers are up, Republicans will do well; if they’re down, Democrats might have a glimmer of hope.

Read the analysis here.

Why do I have the heebie-jeebies? Because I hate straight-ticket voting, no matter which party is up. The GOP is currently the “up party” in Texas.

What galls me to the max is that a healthy majority of voters in the state’s largest counties vote for the party rather than the individual.

Sad, man!

I live in one of the state’s larger counties these days. Collin County will figure mightily in the midterm election that is coming up quickly.

If only I could persuade state legislators to change the law, propose a constitutional amendment, do something proactive to force voters to examine every race individually before casting their ballots.

Spare me the idiocy that voters don’t have “the time” to look at these races when they step into the ballot box.

Parties shouldn’t matter more than the individual we elect to serve us, the people.

So long to straight-ticket voting … woo hoo!

I am happy to report that not all Republicans appear to be bat-crap crazy.

One of them, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, has just signed a bill that does away with straight-ticket, one-punch voting in Texas beginning with the 2020 election cycle.

The Legislature sent the bill to his desk and he signed it fairly quickly after the end of the 2017 legislative session.

Why is this a good deal? Because it forces voters to consider each race individually as they look over their ballots. Sure, they can still vote for an entire partisan slate if they so choose; but now they will have consider each race, each candidate and make their decision on some other factors — perhaps — other than just the political party to which they belong.


It fascinates me that a Republican governor would sign a bill approved by an overwhelmingly Republican Legislature, which is elected by a rock-solid Republican state full of, well, Republicans.

The nation’s leading Republican, Donald J. Trump, today went around the bend by pulling the United States out of a worldwide campaign to battle the impact of climate change.

I am glad that a Republican leader of one of our nation’s largest and most important states has decided that it’s better for voters to take just a tad more time in the polling place before casting their votes.

One-punch vote abolition closer to reality

Could there be an end in sight for something I consider to be a bane on Texas politics?

Texas House Bill 25 would abolish “one-punch voting” for those who want to vote for one party. I cannot cheer this piece of legislation loudly enough.

The Texas House of Representatives approved HB 25 with an 88-57 vote. It now goes to the state Senate. I do hope senators approve it and send it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk; and then I want the governor to sign it. If it becomes law, it takes effect in time for the 2020 presidential election.

According to the Texas Tribune: “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 preliminary vote.”

I have yammered for some time — including on this blog — about how much I dislike straight-ticket voting, or more to the point, how much I dislike the notion that voters can just hit straight Republican or straight Democrat — and then walk away from the polling place.

Texas is one of just nine states that allows one-punch voting.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mind if voters want to cast ballots for candidates of just one party. In Texas, the predominant party for the past three decades has been the Republican Party. I long have favored the idea of requiring voters to look at their ballots one race at a time before making the decision on who gets their vote.

One-punch voting equates to laziness

Opponents of HB 25 think it could impede voter turnout. One foe is state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, who said: “There are a lot of races on the ballot in these general elections, and voting individually takes extra time. 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.”

I happen to believe that voting for candidates for public office ought to require some thought and, yes, some time.

For too long in Texas, we’ve seen good candidates get swept out of office because they happen to belong to the “wrong party.” Victims of this phenomenon have been Democrats; prior to that, when Democrats controlled politics in Texas, Republicans fell victim to this electoral travesty.

One-punch voting creates the potential for this kind of political purging to continue. I am acutely aware that the one-punch voting option doesn’t require voters to cast their ballots in that manner. It does, though, tempt many of them to do so. I see nothing unreasonable in removing that temptation.

I applaud Texas House members for taking this important first step. My hope is that that the other legislative chamber follows suit and that Gov. Abbott signs it into law.

Amarillo voters reporting, uh, fraud … seriously?


Well, wouldn’t you know it’s happening in this election cycle — amid allegations from Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump about “rigged” elections.

An Amarillo radio station reports that at least two Amarillo voters are reporting incidents of “vote changing.”

As Popeye would say, “What a coinck-i-dinck.”


The issue reportedly occurred when voters hit the “straight Republican” option on their electronic ballots. They reported that their votes were recorded for the Clinton-Kaine presidential ticket. They supposedly asked election officials to correct the ballot, but that they couldn’t.

You’ll note on the link that there’s no reaction from Potter or Randall County election officials. Did it happen or didn’t it?

The radio station went with the story told it by the voters.

Hmmm. Imagine that this complaint would occur this year — for the first time since the introduction of the electronic balloting.

Whoever posted the item for the radio station’s link noted that it’s always wise to check your ballot if you vote for either party’s straight ticket.

Me? I hate straight-ticket voting. I prefer to make that call race by race, candidate by candidate, issue by issue.

But that’s just me.

Do I believe the stories being told in this first day of early voting?

No, not until I hear from the election officials in both counties who heretofore have operated first-cabin voting systems.

End of ticket-splitting? Perish the thought

Mary Landrieu’s loss of her U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana might be the least surprising part of the 2014 mid-term election.

She was the last statewide Democratic officeholder in Dixie.

What does surprise me — and unpleasantly so, I should add — is that according to one veteran political observer, the ’14 mid-terms have ushered in the end of ticket-splitting.


More and more Americans are voting for the party rather than the candidate.

Stuart Rothenberg, writing for Roll Call, says voters are just hitting the straight-ticket spot on their ballot and that voting for individual candidates’ is becoming a rare occurrence.

What a shame.

Rothenberg attributes this to the growing ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans. The parties have become branded as standing for certain things and voters aren’t wasting their time studying candidates’ stands on key issues of the day.

Democrats are being identified as the party of liberals such as Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Al Franken of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The Republican brand includes the likes of Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, two favorites of the TEA party movement within the GOP.

The casualty, therefore, becomes the practice of examining what the candidates say about issues, relying instead on the party’s message.

I would prefer we did away with the straight-ticket voting option. If someone wants to vote straight Republican or straight Democratic, then make them go through the ballot race by race, candidate by candidate and make them think — if only for an instant — about the candidate they’re about to endorse.

Why can’t we require voters to at least go through the motions of thinking about their vote?


Voting for the party, not the candidate

We’ve all said at one time or another: I vote for the candidate, not the party.

This item in today’s Daily Oklahoman caught my eye. It’s on the editorial page and, of course, it gigs Democratic-leaning voters for making some, um, strange polling-place choices on Election Day. I get it, given the paper’s conservative tilt editorially. No problem with that.


An editorial brief in the Oklahoman refers to a Democratic candidate for Congress who received 35,006 votes on Tuesday — even though he died in a car accident several days before the election. Then it refers to a Cleveland County commissioner candidate, another Democrat, who received 38 percent of the vote despite having been arrested three times for drunken driving.

The paper wonders whether party label mattered over candidate qualifications.

Good point.

But here’s another example of the point the Oklahoman was making.

Over here, in Potter County, a Republican candidate for justice of peace actually defeated a long-time Democratic incumbent even though the GOP challenger had been arrested multiple times in recent years on felony charges involving domestic disputes.

Does party affiliation matter more in this instance than a candidate’s actual qualifications?

I will say, with considerable emphasis, “yes.”