Effort advances to eliminate straight-party voting in Texas

The push to eliminate one-punch voting in Texas is once again alive.

A bill proposed by Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carollton, was voted out of the House Elections Committee Monday evening, 5-2, and will face debate on the House floor.

Texas is one of nine states nationally that currently still offers this option to voters on election days. This style of voting has become a popular topic of contention among statewide officeholders because of its nature to vote out less popular office holders with partisan trends. When Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick served in the state Senate, he was one of the leaders behind this charge.

When explaining his motivation for again taking up the charge, Simmons said he dismisses the concerns many have that eliminating one-punch voting will drive away voters who are not as educated in down-ballot elections.

"The facts are what the facts are," Simmons said. "People will vote down the ballot, if you give them a reason."

Simmons also mentioned a problem in current elections that could be solved with the removal of one-punch voting.

In elections that also feature ballot propositions, which are not subject to partisan choices, many voters accidentally forgo voting in important local decisions. For example, Simmons said there was a 17 percent drop-off between the 2014 gubernatorial race and votes on state Proposition 1, which determined the allocation of roughly $5 billion in transportation money.

For the most part representatives from political parties, including the Green and Libertarian parties, were in favor of the bill. The only aberration was the Texas Democratic Party, which testified against removing one-punch voting.

A recurring concern among witnesses in urban counties with long ballots, such as Harris County, was that elections would be made more complicated with longer lines without a simplified one-punch option.

Many third party representatives linked the unwillingness to forgo one-punch voting with an unwillingness to explore additional candidates of a higher quality.

Another notable witness was Erin Lunceford, a Harris County judge, appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2015, who said she was swept out of office with partisan tides in the 2016 general election.

Lunceford, who ran as a Republican, in a county that voted majority Democrat, said she lost to her Democrat opponent, who has never even tried a case before.

She said without taking into account those who voted straight-ticket, she would have won the election by a 10-point margin.

Eventually, the vote on the bill fell along party lines, with all five Republicans pushing the bill forward, with Democrat Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, and Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, voted against it.
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