Texas entered the 85th legislative session as a minority among its peers—one of only 10 states that offered a one-punch voting option on election ballots. The state will leave as part of the majority, however, after Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 25 on Thursday.
The bill, by Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, will start the process of eliminating straight-ticket voting, but have no immediate effect before 2020. Starting Sept. 1, the secretary of state will distribute a notice that straight-ticket voting will be eliminated, and then develop a process to follow through on the elimination.
Democrats largely opposed the bill throughout the process, saying the elimination of this voting option will make it harder on individuals to cast their ballots.
Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, mentioned the large size of ballots in areas like Harris County.
“The sample ballot is frankly the size of this desk,” Garcia said, gesturing to her large desktop in the Senate chambers. “[One-punch voting] makes it easier for seniors or people with eyesight issues.”
Garcia said there is likely to be drop-off in voting in each individual race by the time a voter makes his or her way from the top of the ballot all the way to the bottom. She said there are often up to 100 races in Harris County, and voter participation in local elections could be a casualty of the maneuver.
Roughly 60 percent of voters used the straight-ticket option in the 2016 election within Texas’ 10 largest counties.
Republicans have largely been supportive of this measure after experiencing significant losses in the 2016 election, due to many top-of-the-ballot picks for the Democrat party.
Erin Lunceford, a Harris County Republican judge, claimed straight-ticket voting was responsible for her 2016 loss, when she was replaced by someone who had never tried a case.
Lunceford said without taking into account those who voted straight-ticket, she would have won the election by a 10-point margin.