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Travis County voters cast ballots at Travis County Tax Office on Feb. 25, 2016. Photo courtesy Shelby Knowles / Texas Tribune

Senate Committee Advances Straight-Ticket Voting Ban

A Texas Senate panel approved legislation Thursday that would end straight-ticket voting in all elections.

The Senate Committee on Business & Commerce voted 7-0 to send House Bill 25 for potential consideration by the full chamber. Two members, the only Democrats on the panel, were absent.

The vote came less than a week after the House passed the legislation, mostly along party lines. Starting with the 2018 elections, the bill would take away the option for voters to automatically cast their ballot for every candidate from a single party.

Straight-ticket ballots made up 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 Senate committee initially left the bill pending Thursday morning. It later reconvened and passed the bill.

In the Thursday hearing, proponents of the bill — including its Senate sponsor, Hancock — said it would force voters to make more informed decisions when casting their ballots. Critics suggested it could lead to voting rights violations.

“We believe that this takes away one method of voting that minority voters overwhelmingly use to choose the candidates of their choice,” said Glen Maxey, legislative affairs director for the Texas Democratic Party.

Maxey also questioned why the bill wound up in the Business & Commerce Committee, not the State Affairs Committee. Such a maneuver is “what the federal courts have noted as abnormal legislative procedure,” Maxey said.

A federal judge blocked a similar law last year in Michigan, saying it would disproportionately affect black voters. After that ruling came up in Thursday’s hearing, Hancock noted that the Michigan law moved through a “completely different court system than we’ll move through” if HB 25 becomes law and it is challenged.

Hancock also sought to reassure critics of the bill who said it would lead to longer lines at polling places, saying more locations would solve the problem.

Opponents of HB 25 had a sympathetic audience Thursday in state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who said he was still trying to understand why Texas Republicans were pushing the proposal.

“I am shocked, quite frankly, that the people in charge of this state right now want to go there because they’re doing pretty damn good under the current system,” Whitmire said, referring to Texas’ GOP-dominated government. 

Whitmire was one of the two Democrats who were absent when the committee voted on the bill. The other was state Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo.

The bill now heads to the full Senate, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a former member, has previously proposed eliminating straight-ticket voting in only judicial races. His office has not responded to requests for comment on whether he supports ending the practice in all elections.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when House Bill 25 would be in effect. If passed, it would be in effect for the 2018 election.

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

About The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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5 comments

  1. Alberto Y QUE TE IMPORTA?

    I normally vote DEMOCRAT! and only once made the intentional mistake to vote for republican John McCain back in 2008, and I’ll be voting for republican Dee Margo on June 10th. That will probably be the last time I vote for a disgusting republican considering that we really didn’t have a good selection of candidates running for El Paso mayor in 2017.
    Texas Republicans can’t make me vote for any member of their racist fascist bigot politicians no matter what!
    I don’t consider Dee Margo a racist but I can’t stand David Saucedo.

    • You seem to be a racist and hateful bigot yourself.

      • Alberto, Y QUE TE IMPORTA?

        Not me Mad Mike! but I will be racist to idiots like you since you happen to be a White Nationalist Aryan Supremacist Bigot! I know how to get along with many people from different cultures as most of my buddies in California are caucasian/African American/Asian and Latinos from all over and even some middle easterners. You only hang out with Skin Heads and those in the conical hood Klan.

  2. If you want to vote a straight ticket, then at least have the energy to vote for whom ever you ant, one vote at a time. If you are too lazy to read and vote for each candidate, you are too lazy to vote at all.

    • Alberto, Y QUE TE IMPORTA?

      Yea right! just like stupid Texas republicans trying to dictate as to how we are to vote! but the overall picture is how all republicans both in Texas and in the house of congress read their own BS legislation then vote on it. For example most of them didn’t even bother to read what was in the repealing of Obamacare, they just signed on to please their fascist dictator Donald Trump! What’s up with that? that means that they are way too lazy, ignorant and stupid just following orders. BTW most of them won’t have a job by the end of the 2018 mid term elections,you can rest assure.

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