The results of the 2016 election are being replayed in federal court as the state of Michigan defends a Republican-backed law that would abolish straight-party voting, an easy ballot option that’s especially popular in urban areas that go Democratic. The law was suspended last year by a judge who said an end to straight-party ballots could cause long lines and place a disproportionate burden on black voters. Now, after months of analysis by experts, that same judge must decide whether the lawsuit should go to trial or be dismissed in favor of the state. Straight-party voting is the act of making a single mark on a ballot to pick candidates of one party, from president to county commissioner. It’s been in practice for more than 100 years in Michigan and is widely held in urban areas; Detroit’s rate was 80 percent in 2016.
straight party voting
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and other Republican legislators are fighting subpoenas that could force them to testify and expose internal debate over a controversial law to ban straight-ticket voting. The legal drama is unfolding more than a year after a federal judge first suspended the straight-ticket ban in the run-up to the 2016 election, ruling the change could disproportionally burden African-American voters and limit their opportunity to participate in the state’s political process. Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office are fighting to implement the ban ahead of the 2018 election cycle, arguing it would neutrally apply to voters of all races. The case is scheduled to go to trial in late December.
Gov. Greg Abbott recently resolved the future of straight-ticket voting in Texas when he signed a bill to eliminate the option, but the impact of the new law on future elections is far from certain. “It’s a fairly audacious move by Republicans,” said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones. “They may or may not benefit. They really don’t know.” Green Party and Libertarian Party members testified during a House hearing in favor of doing away with straight-ticket voting, while Texas Democrats strongly favor continuing the practice.
Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new voter ID bill into law Thursday, loosening identification requirements from a 2011 law that a federal judge said was enacted by Republicans to intentionally discriminate against minority voters, who tend to vote for Democrats. Senate Bill 5 will allow registered voters who lack a photo ID to cast a ballot after showing documents that list their name and address, including a voter registration certificate, utility bill, bank statement, government check or work paycheck. Such voters would have to sign a “declaration of reasonable impediment” stating that they could not acquire a photo ID due to a lack of transportation, lack of a birth certificate, work schedule, disability, illness, family responsibility, or lost or stolen ID.
A bill was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott last week that would eliminate straight-ticket voting in Texas. But opponents say the legislation could be headed to court. Texas is one of 10 states that provide the option of voting for one party straight down the ballot. Proponents say it makes voting easier and reduces wait times at the polls. Critics say it makes voters less engaged with down-ballot local races. According to a study from Austin Community College’s Center for Public Policy and Political Studies, straight-ticket voting made up nearly two-thirds of votes cast in the 2016 election. … Erin Lunceford, a Republican who also ran unsuccessfully for a judgeship in Harris County, called herself a “poster child for why straight-ticket voting is bad for Texas.” “It results in the election of less qualified, experienced judges,” she told a hearing on House Bill 25.
The Texas Senate gave initial approval Wednesday to legislation that would eliminate straight-ticket voting in all elections. By a vote of 20-10, senators passed House Bill 25 over objections from Democrats who warned of unintended consequences — including a disproportionate impact on minority voters. “Frankly, I don’t see any purpose for this legislation other than trying to dilute the vote of Democrats and, more specifically, minorities,” said state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.
Texas: Although Texas leads nation in straight-ticket voting, bill to eliminate it gains traction | San Antonio Express-News
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.
Texas: With Bill to Abolish Straight-Ticket Voting, Is Texas Hurtling Toward Another Civil Rights Lawsuit? | Observer
A bill advancing through the Legislature that would drastically change how the majority of Texas voters cast ballots could embroil the state in yet another voting discrimination lawsuit, critics say. House Bill 25 would abolish “straight-ticket” voting, the “one-punch” option at the top of Texas ballots that allows voters to simultaneously cast a vote for all the candidates of a single political party. Backed by conservative leadership, the bill would slow down the voting process for a majority of the state electorate: 63 percent of Texas voters used the straight-ticket option in the 2016 presidential election, according to Texas Elections Source. Voters would still be able to cast ballots for all the candidates of one party, but HB 25 would make voters select them one by one. The proposal passed the House over the weekend and will be considered by the Senate Business and Commerce Committee Thursday.
Editorials: Loss of Texas straight-ticket voting will force down-ballot candidates to change strategies | Gromer Jeffers Jr./Dallas Morning News
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.
The Texas House late Saturday gave final approval to a bill that would eliminate “one-punch” voting, forcing voters to make an individual decision on every ballot item, starting with the 2020 election. House Bill 25, approved 88-57, could drastically change Texas politics considering straight-ticket ballots accounted for almost 64 percent of total votes cast in the state’s 10 largest counties in 2016. Forty-one states don’t allow straight-ticket voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The final vote fell largely on partisan lines; only three Democrats voted for it, while only seven Republicans voted to keep one-punch voting.