Tag Archives: Texas elections

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.

Two-thirds rule likely to scuttle key Texas appointment

The Texas Senate operates on a rule that is designed ostensibly to promote bipartisanship.

It’s the two-thirds rule, which requires 21 of the Senate’s 31 members to approve legislation — and appointments.

However, all 12 of the Senate’s Democrats are going to oppose the nomination of David Whitley as the next Texas secretary of state. That leaves him with just 19 votes, all of which will come from Senate Republicans.

It seems that Whitley, who’s been acting as secretary of state, blew it when his office “flagged” several thousand voters who were thought to be illegal residents of Texas. It turns out that many of those flagged were quite legal. One of them happened to be a key member of a Senate Democrat’s staff.

Can we hear an “oops”?

Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Whitley to be the state’s top elections officer this past year, but the Legislature was not in session, meaning that the Senate hadn’t yet formally approved his nomination. With the Senate’s 12 Democratic members now on record as opposing his appointment, it appears that Abbott might have to look for someone else to run the state’s election system.

The Secretary of State’s Office committed a fairly embarrassing cluster flip with the flagging of those names. It sought to purge the system of what it said were illegal voters, only to determine that the list of flagged voters was significantly inaccurate.

Abbott said he still supports Whitley fully, which is what one would expect him to say.

I’ll offer this bit of advice: David Whitley needs to bow out; the governor needs to find another nominee. Then we can get back to the task of running our state elections instead of looking for bogeymen where they likely don’t exist.

Yes, the Texas Senate’s two-thirds rule works.

More voters means better government … always!

Barack H. Obama gave a speech today that touched on a subject I have tried to make over many years while I worked as a print journalist in Amarillo and Beaumont, Texas and back in my home state of Oregon.

I won’t presume to believe the 44th president of the United States got the idea directly from me. Nevertheless, I’ll take a bit of ownership of the idea he put forward.

He implored young people in his audience to “vote,” to take part in the political process if only just be ensuring that they cast their ballots. “Don’t think your vote doesn’t matter,” Obama said, noting that he he was able to win two presidential elections by narrowly carrying many voting precincts or congressional districts across the land.

I’m going to steer away from the partisan nature of what the former president said, concentrating instead on the bigger picture.

For decades I sought to boost voter turnout by imploring voters to follow this simple creed: Don’t let your neighbor — who might or not agree with your political leanings — decide who should represent you in government. I ran out of ways to say the same thing. Yes, I repeated myself. I’m likely doing so here … right now!

Texas remains one of the nation’s most miserable examples of representative democracy. Our voter turnout at every level — from the presidential level on down — habitually ranks at or near the bottom of all 50 states. Think of that: Texans protect the right to vote on many issues and for many candidates; yet when given the chance to vote, too many of us stay home.

The former president spoke a tremendous truth today to those students in Illinois. They need to take part. They need to become the solution to what they believe is wrong with our political system today. The simplest way to do so, in the former president’s words, is to exercise their right to vote. Cast a ballot, man!

So, thank you, Mr. President, for elevating my message to the national stage.

Your vote really does count; honest, it does

Do me a favor.

Take a couple of minutes to watch this video. It’s an instructive lecture from the general manager of Panhandle PBS on why your vote matters, especially at the local level.

If you live in the Texas Panhandle or far away from this part of the United States of America, this message is for you.

Chris Hays put this video together to promote a public affairs program to be broadcast Thursday night on Panhandle PBS. The “Live Here” segment airs at 7 p.m. and it features a candidate forum for the 16 people running for all five seats on the Amarillo City Council.

The video, though, speaks to voters across the country. Many voters don’t take part in their local elections, thinking apparently that their vote doesn’t matter and that the people who run for these offices don’t really do anything to affect citizens’ lives.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It’s the local elections that matter most to us. We ought to be voting on the people who set policies for our households, as well as for our children’s education.

Texas communities are conducting elections in early May. The turnout for most of them is expected to be paltry, dismal, shamefully low. Amarillo has had its share of tumult in recent months, so there might be a slight uptick in voter participation here.

What about where you live? Are you going to hand these critical decisions over to someone else, let your neighbor decide how much you pay in local property taxes?

Don’t do it. Your neighbor, or the folks across town can’t speak for you. Only you can speak for yourself.

One way to speak is to cast a vote for the candidate of your choice running for local office in your hometown.

Before you decide to sit this one out, take a peek at the video here. Maybe it’ll change your mind.


Paul does the Texas thing: two races at once

Kentucky’s Rand Paul is seeking to do something that Texas politicians have done for years.

He wants the ability to run for his U.S. Senate seat and the presidency of the United States at the same time.

Go for it, Sen. Paul.


Paul is expected to get approval by the Kentucky Republican Party soon, enabling him to file for re-election and seek the GOP nomination for the presidency in 2016.

What’s the big deal?

The two most famous Texans to do the same thing were the late Democratic U.S. Sens. Lyndon Johnson and Lloyd Bentsen. LBJ was elected vice president in 1960 and was re-elected to the Senate the same year; the state held a special election in 1961 and Republican John Tower finished first in a huge field for the Senate seat. Then, in 1988, Sen. Bentsen was running for re-election when he was picked to run as vice president on a Democratic ticket led by Michael Dukakis; the Dukakis-Bentsen ticket didn’t win the White House, but Bentsen was re-elected handily over Amarillo Congressman Beau Boulter.

I’ve never had a particular problem with this electoral “loophole.” As for Rand Paul’s political future, the Kentucky GOP holds the key to allowing him to seek re-election to the Senate.

Let him to do it. If he’s as popular in Kentucky as he appears to be, there won’t be much need to campaign actively for that seat while he seeks the GOP presidential nomination.

And hey, if Paul gets drummed out of the Republican presidential race, he’s got plenty of campaign time left to make the case for his Senate seat.