Texas is one of sixteen states that offers voters the option of simply checking a box for a political party at the ballot box, forgoing the task of individually voting for each candidate. The practice is called "straight-ticket voting" or "straight-party voting" and Republican State Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) doesn't like it.
"We're not England," Wentworth told the Dallas Morning News, in an apparent reference to the proportional representation system used in some UK elections. In that system, political parties make lists of candidates, and voters essentially cast a ballot for the list. Members are allocated seats based on the proportion of votes they get.
Wentworth went on to tell the DMN that "straight-ticket voting is a detriment to our system and not the way it was designed to be." That's why he's filed a Senate Bill 139 last month, which would ban the practice by removing it from the Election Code.
But some political scientists say there's nothing wrong with straight-ticket voting. Peck Young, a professor at Austin Community College, conducted a study after the November elections that found more than almost three out of five Texas voters cast straight-ticket ballots in the November election. Most of the straight ticket voters were Republican. That's probably not a surprise, given that Republicans candidates scored more votes in the election.
In an interview with KUT News, Young rejected the notion that straight ticket voters are less informed, or that the system is damaging to democracy.
"My experience, frankly, as a political professional for 40 years showed me that straight ticket voters, in many cases, are some of the best informed voters," Young told KUT News. "What you have is people who chose a brand. They know what parties stand for. They know what candidates tend to stand for. And they prefer a philosophy that they are convinced one party stands for, and they believe the candidates of that party are going to follow that philosophy. And so they vote for a philosophy."
University of Houston public policy professor Richard Murray told the Galveston County Daily News this weekend that the "enormous straight-ticket vote wiped out Texas Democrats in Harris, Galveston, Bexar and all rural counties that were not heavily Hispanic.”