Legislation that would remove Texas judges from the straight-ticket voting process garnered a mostly cool reception Tuesday at a Texas House committee hearing, as both Democrats and Republicans said that tinkering with the ballot turns off voters. House Bill 25, authored by state Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, would only impact partisan elections in judicial races. Sheets, an attorney, told his fellow House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee members that good judges are being unfairly ousted when a Republican or Democratic wave occurs during a general election. “We’re not eliminating straight-ticketing voting,” Sheets said Tuesday. “We’re just making it so voters would have to manually select, and the thought process is that more people would select the judicial candidate [based] on the individual.”
But two fellow lawyers and Republican representatives, Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches and Mike Schofield of Katy, voiced reservations about how adjusting a ballot in any way could make it more confusing for voters, which could dampen turnout. “I think we should be encouraging people to vote, not discouraging people to vote,” Clardy said.
Schofield, a former policy adviser for former Gov. Rick Perry on several issues, including voter ID legislation, said making such a big decision without finding out more from states that have eliminated straight ticket voting recently, would be premature.
The committee left Sheets’ bill pending in committee.