Down-Ballot Bexar Dems Benefit From Straight-Ticket Voting

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A long line of voters forms outside of Ed Rawlinson Middle School, a polling site.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A long line of voters forms outside of the a polling site at Ed Rawlinson Middle School on Nov. 6.

Down-ballot Democrats in Bexar County reaped the benefits of straight-ticket voting in the recent midterm election, but that advantage will soon be a thing of the past.

Of the 551,896 ballots cast in Bexar County, 134,360 were straight-ticket Republican votes and 191,776 straight-ticket Democratic votes. Among Libertarians, 2,729 people voted straight-ticket.

Democratic straight-ticket voting in Bexar County saw a slight increase since the 2016 presidential election when 32.6 percent of voters cast straight-ticket ballots for Democrats compared to 23 percent for Republicans. This year, 34.7 percent of Bexar County voters went straight-ticket Democrat while 23.4 percent voted straight-ticket Republican.

Democrats won all the Bexar County court-at-law judicial and probate court races, and the district and county clerks, both incumbent Republicans, were unseated by their Democratic challengers. That could be attributed to straight-ticket voting, said Henry Flores, a political science professor at St. Mary’s University.

“Straight-ticket voting has given Democrats an advantage over the years,” he said. “Down-ballot elections will benefit from that simply because a lot of folks don’t know who those people are, particularly judicial elections. A lot of judicial candidates hang their hats on straight-ticket voting and attach themselves to candidates at the top of the ticket in their party, because they can’t afford to run big campaigns.”

Texas is one of eight states that offers straight-ticket voting – or will be until 2020.

Last session, the Texas Legislature passed a bill ending straight ticket voting in September 2020 – right before the next presidential election – making 2018 the last midterm election in which voters could vote straight down the party line.

Hover over precincts on the map below to see the distribution of straight-party votes.

The typical straight-ticket voter is older and less politically educated, Flores said. Eliminating straight-ticket voting could end up discouraging potential voters, especially when faced with long ballots, he added.

“That is, for me, the most important issue,” he said. “Voters will be confused, and the average human doesn’t like to appear ignorant so they’ll say, ‘I don’t know what’s going on so I’m just not going to go.’”

Requiring voters to expend additional effort or time typically leads to a decrease in voter turnout, and straight-ticket voting was a good way to mobilize voters by marketing it as an easy way to vote, said Brandon Rottinghaus, University of Houston political science professor. Both Republicans and Democrats in Texas will now have to figure out how to keep people invested in voting for their parties, he added.

“I think Republicans are better at that than Democrats are,” he said. “It took a while for Democrat straight-ticket voting to catch up to Republican straight-ticket voting in big urban counties. The Democrats need to figure this out more quickly than the straight-ticket voting issue.”

Republicans have been championing the movement to eliminate straight-ticket voting for some time, Rottinghaus said, as the increase in Democrats in urban areas caused concern among the state GOP, he said.

“In the short term, it may hurt Republicans in some races,” he said. “But in the long term, it was going to be a disaster for Republicans in most big cities.”

4 thoughts on “Down-Ballot Bexar Dems Benefit From Straight-Ticket Voting

  1. A terrific map and assessment of Bexar County voters. 2020 will hopefully show that the voters are better informed on candidates. Straight ticket voting especially in judicial races just isn’t in the best interest of the public.

  2. Discontinuing straight ticket balloting is a good thing. Our men and women who have fought and died in foxholes and rice paddies and battlefields have won the vote for Americans. Therefore, it is a responsibility to be advised on the candidates stands, and not just listen to sound bites on TV and radio before the elections, or just to save time, pull that one lever.

  3. Perhaps this will encourage further transparency and media coverage of local elections, choosing to show the entire roster and then a quick sound bite or two of what each person feels is their particular value proposition for the role. Incumbents can tout their record, and the challengers can point to prior results that showcase a particular political viewpoint. Wouldn’t it be nice to re-elect those who serve well and kick out those who fail to fulfill their promises?

  4. “Voters will be confused” Well, I wouldn’t want a confused person randomly voting by flipping a coin or by color of the party.

    Brandon Rottinghaus, University of Houston political science professor. Preying on ignorant masses is part of political science? Relying on quantity of voters rather than quality of solutions? Sounds like a terrible idea to me. Anything to win, I wonder if even bending or breaking rules would stop some people. Sounds like terrible things are being taught these days.

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