Thursday, November 08, 2018


Political Mayhem Thursday: Little-known corners of the election

Sometimes there are things in the comments section that are way better than anything I have to say. That is the case this week, as I came across this from CTL in a comment to yesterday's post:

"Texas still offers a straight-party voting option (i.e., one click casts your ballot for all the Rs or all the Ds). When a big national swing happens, and when a majority of folks vote straight party, the judges and county officials down-ballot tend to get swept in or out along party lines. For example, Republican County Judge (weird name for the highest county executive), Ed Emmett, an 11-year incumbent who is highly respected by both sides of the aisle and revered in some circles for his response to Hurricane Harvey (and who is in the middle of a multi-billion dollar flood prevention infrastructure project), lost to a 27-year-old political activist. Republican Justice Brett Busby of Texas' Fourteenth Court of Appeals, a six-year incumbent who clerked for and later practiced before the U.S. Supreme Court (his wife was also a SCOTUS clerk) and was endorsed by every major newspaper and bar association, lost to a suburban civil lawyer with essentially zero appellate experience. These roles are only political in the broadest sense, and it's a shame that our increasingly national politics decide important local races. The same was true, by the way, in 2010 when some well-qualified and experienced democrats were swept out in the first Obama midterms." 

He's right, of course! What else happened in Tuesday's election that flew under the radar?

I hear that option is going away in Texas--not sure in which future election that will be true.
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Unless something changes*, Texas is set to ditch straight-ticket voting in September 2020, before the next national election. Many places will have local elections in 2019 (Houston's mayoral and city council election, for example) but those races tend to suffer less from national distortion.

As suggested by my comment, I think straight-ticket voting is terrible. Without it I suspect most folks would essentially vote for one party anyway, but they'll at least be forced to read the ballot as they do so. In the process, perhaps they'll notice a name from their church, or maybe a person they stood next to while volunteering, or someone they saw on the news, and then actually think about who they vote for. At minimum, this might encourage stronger candidates--from both parties--to run for office and, you know, campaign.

*Michigan, for example, recently unwound it's straight-ticket voting option, but not without controversy and judicial intervention. When the Republican-led state legislature banned straight-ticket voting, Democrats filed a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination. A district judge in Detroit enjoined the ban, finding it would "present[] a disproportionate burden on African Americans' right to vote." The ruling was predicated, in part, on the fact that eliminating straight-ticket voting would make voting take longer. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court in a 2-1 decision, and straight ticket was not an option on Tuesday. These things tend to be about political advantage, and who knows how that might impact Texas in 2020...
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