Loss of Texas Straight-ticket Voting Will Force Down-ballot Candidates to Change Strategies

AUSTIN — Straight-party voting in Texas is on the way out — for now.A bill outlawing the popular practice sailed through the House and is expected to win easy approval in the Senate.If one-punch voting goes away, voters will be asked to wade through ballots containing numerous candidates, many of them obscure. In 2014, Dallas County had more than 100 candidates on a single ballot. So, many voters chose to cast a single vote for all the candidates from the party of their choice.Repealing straight-ticket voting won't have much impact on races at the top of the ballot. Voters across the state are generally aware and somewhat informed about the high-profile contests for governor and Senate. Even races like district attorney and county judge are in the minds of most voters.But judicial contests and other obscure campaigns could be the most affected. Few voters are exposed to information about criminal justice candidates or other posts outside the political limelight."We'll need to be vigilant in getting folks to the polls," said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. "It's going to require a different type of strategy."In Texas and other states, down-ballot candidates rely heavily on coordinated campaigns to push people to the polls. Voters are urged to punch the straight-ticket to get the party's entire slate elected. Since ballots are so long, the choice is appealing for voters who trust their party and don't want to spend a lot of time in the voting booth.While there will still be coordinated campaigns, down-ballot candidates will now have to work harder to attract casual voters. They may have to raise more money or wear out an extra pair of shoes walking blocks."We have to get them to finish the entire ballot," said Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas.Dallas County Republicans are hopeful that the repeal of one-punch voting will give their candidates a boost.Democrats still hold a strong advantage countywide, but unpopular judges in their party are now at greater risk because getting a pure partisan vote will be harder."I like the bill because it will require people to vote for the best candidate, not just a political party," said Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas.The new law should be in place for the 2018 general elections, though Democrats are expected to bring a federal lawsuit to block the repeal.During debate on the bill, Democrats used their opposition to build a case that the law violates the voting rights of minorities. Supporters of repealing one-punch voting deny they are discriminating against voters. They say any Texas voter can select their candidate of choice.The biggest impact of repealing straight-ticket voting will be the loss of convenience, and some voters likely will get frustrated and leave ballots incomplete.Don't forget to pack a lunch. The lines at the polls will be much longer.  Continue reading...

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