Texas is on the verge of eliminating straight-ticket voting, which supporters say would force voters to pay attention to every race on a ballot but critics say could decrease turnout and put the state at risk of yet another civil rights lawsuit. “I disagree that (straight-ticket voting) is a right, I believe it is an option,” said Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, author of House Bill 25. “I believe this will provide better candidates, better elected officials and I do not believe it will harm voting down the ballot.” Statewide, 63 percent of Texas voters cast straight-ticket ballots during the November general elections, according to Texas Election Source, a non-partisan data-driven public policy group. In Bexar County, the figure was 57 percent with 340,847 voters casting straight ticket ballots for either all Republicans, all Democrats, all Libertarians or all Green Party candidates out of a total of 598,691 votes cast. Forty percent of all straight ticket ballots were for the Republican Party; 57 percent went to the Democrats.
The figures are similar for previous years; more than half of Bexar County voters have cast straight ticket ballots in the last four presidential election years.
When voting a straight ticket, also known as “one punch” voting, a voter only has to punch one button to vote for all the candidates in the voter’s chosen party instead of having to click on each individual race, which in some years and some larger cities could number as many as 100.
While critics of the bill are largely Democrats, observers over the years have noted that both major parties have unexpectedly lost down-ballot races when there is heavy straight-ticket voting.