Editorial: Don't take away straight-ticket voting

 

People have plenty of reasons not to vote - discouragement or unfamiliarity with candidates, demanding schedules, long lines at the polls. The Texas Legislature shouldn’t give them another.

Yet on Thursday, a Senate panel approved a bill that would ban straight-ticket voting. That’s a mistake, and when if the bill comes up for a vote, senators should oppose it.

‘The Senate Committee on Business & Commerce voted 7-0 to send House Bill 25 for potential consideration by the full chamber,” the Texas Tribune reports. “Two members, the only Democrats on the panel, were absent. The vote came less than a week after the House passed the legislation, mostly along party lines. Starting with the 2018 elections, the bill would take away the option for voters to automatically cast their ballot for every candidate from a single party.”

Some see straight-ticket voting as something that is currently benefiting Democrats.

“Straight-ticket ballots made up almost 64 percent of total votes cast in the state’s 10 largest counties in 2016,” the Tribune explained. “A federal judge blocked a similar law last year in Michigan, saying it would disproportionately affect black voters. After that ruling came up in Thursday’s hearing, Hancock noted that the Michigan law moved through a ‘completely different court system than we’ll move through’ if HB 25 becomes law and it is challenged.”

Here’s why it’s a bad bill.

First, straight ticket voting doesn’t just benefit Democratic voters. It benefits all voters - especially those have lives and jobs and children and school responsibilities.

We would love to believe that every voter has the time, inclination and ability to become fully informed on every race. But that’s simply not reality. Most of us are too busy to fully study up on every Court of Appeals and Municipal Utility District and constable candidate on the ballot. Straight-ticket voting is a way to be pretty sure we’re voting for the candidate who most aligns with our values and beliefs (and yes, of course there are exceptions).

Supporters of the bill counter that voters can still vote all Democratic or all Republican or even all Green Party. And that’s true, but it brings us to the second point.

Why would we make voting more time consuming and less convenient? It will take longer to go through each race, identify the correct party, and push the button. Not a lot of time, perhaps, but how many of us have stood in line on Election Day and looked at our watch, wondering if we truly have time for this, or whether we need to get out of line to pick up the kids from school?

According to the Pew Research Center, the United States already ranks 31st out of 35 developed democracies in voter turnout. Taking away this tool - straight-ticket voting - will inevitably make that worse.

That House bill that was passed by a Senate committee is a bad bill. The Texas Legislature has much, much bigger issues on its plate. The ban on straight-ticket voting should be defeated.

 
 

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