On May 6, 2017, the Texas House passed HB25, eliminating straight party voting. On May 11, 2017, As of Monday, the equivalent Senate bill was voted favorably out of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee. Though there is only two weeks to go before the end of the legislative session, it is likely that the Republican-dominated Senate will also vote to eliminate straight party voting.
Our Democratic representatives and senators have been fighting hard to preserve straight party voting. They have warned the Republicans that the bill to eliminate straight party voting is a "voter suppression bill." In fact, a federal court in Michigan ruled in July that abolishing the straight-ticket option would disproportionately impact African-American voters, who use it more often and already face longer voting lines in urban areas. The federal court found that the bill to eliminate straight party voting was designed "to require voters to spend more time filling more bubbles," which could "discourage voting." The Supreme Court declined to hear Michigan's appeal in September, and the lower court ruling, sympathetic with straight party voting, stood.
Ironically, Republicans also benefit from straight-party voting, usually in rural areas. Across the state of Texas, 63% of all voters used the straight-party voting option. It varied little between parties. Of those voting for Trump, 65% used straight party voting. Of those voting for Clinton, 64% used straight party voting. Thus, elimination of straight party voting could hurt both parties. However, Republicans are obviously trying to stop the Democratic momentum in large urban areas, which are only getting larger.
In Dallas County, where 62% of Dallas voters voted a straight party Democratic ticket in the 2016 election, elimination of straight party voting is a game-changer for Democrats, and not in a good way. Like the unconstitutional Voter ID bill the Republicans introduced, and like their redistricting antics to disenfranchise Democratic voters, this is another way to change the rules of the game in their favor.
Dallas Morning News political reporter Gromer Jeffers explains: "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 ... judicial contests and other obscure campaigns could be the most affected. Few voters are exposed to information about criminal justice candidates or other posts outside the political limelight."
Clearly, all things being equal, doing away with straight ticket voting is a serious threat to many of our outstanding local Democratic public servants, many of whom have served in Dallas County since 2002. If this bill becomes law, and if the expected legal challenges to it are not successful, it will be up to every Democrat to VOTE UP AND DOWN THE ENTIRE BALLOT. We would not be able to count on the strong straight-ticket margin we have consistently increased in Dallas County over the years. We will need the strongest ticket possible and a unified effort like never before.
We must be prepared. If Texas Republicans are successful in eliminating straight party voting, it is doubtful that a lawsuit will be completed before the November election. Voting lines will be longer, and it will take longer in the voting booth without the quick straight-ticket option. It is doubtful that the Republican leaders, who are creating these problems, will take action to alleviate the voting inconveniences their move will cause. We will need longer voting hours. We may need more voting machines or locations. You can depend upon your local Democratic leaders to address these procedural issues to the extent we are able.
We will keep you posted on this issue, and if the worst happens, we will have a strategy for our messaging and for our voter education. The Republicans can change the rules, but they can't change the fact that Dallas County is BLUE. We must stick together and mark the "D" all the way down the ballot. Democrats may need to fight the GOP one race at a time this November. Let's Stay Strong Together!
Meanwhile, continue to support your local Dallas County Democratic Party. You can do so in any of the following ways: