More than 930K Harris Co. voters cast a straight-party vote in 2018, representing more than three quarters of all votes cast there, shattering county records for straight-party voting. Democratic candidates enjoyed a straight-party advantage of more than 105K votes on their way to sweeping all countywide offices.
Including straight-party Libertarian ballots, 77.2% of Harris Co. voters cast a straight-party vote, up nearly 10 percentage points from 2016 and more than 8 percentage points higher than the previous high, 68.8% in 2012. It’s the fifth straight election where at least two thirds of all votes cast in Harris Co. were straight-party votes.
Compared to 2016, 43K more straight-party Democratic and 9K more straight-party Republican votes were cast. Compared to 2014, 316K more people cast a straight-party Democratic vote, double the increase in straight-party Republican votes, which increased by 157K.
As is usually the case, straight-party voting determined the outcomes of most races in the county. In at least three races, candidates overcame a straight-party disadvantage to win:
- In CD7, Democratic challenger Lizzie Pannill Fletcher overcame a 4,233-vote disadvantage by claiming 63% of the full-ballot vote.
- In HD132, Democratic challenger Gina Calanni overcame a 717-vote deficit in straight-party voting by winning 54% of the full-ballot vote; and
- In HD134, Rep. Sarah Davis (R-Houston) overcame a 3,359-vote disadvantage by taking 65% of the vote among full-ballot voters.
For Davis, it was the first time she has faced a straight-party deficit. Since 2012, Democrats have completely erased a nearly 12K vote Republican advantage. In 2014, the Republican advantage there was cut in half to 6K, then to just over 3K in 2016. Another 6K vote swing toward the Democrats – the largest of any Harris Co. district this year – gave the straight-party advantage to challenger Alison Sawyer.
In 15 Harris Co. House districts, the straight-party advantage shifted toward the Democrats since 2016.
Following Davis’s HD134, the next largest shifts toward the Democrats were experienced in HD135 and HD132, where Reps. Gary Elkins (R-Houston) and Mike Schofield (R-Katy) were both defeated. Eight other Republican-held districts saw shifts toward the Democrats, though they all retained a Republican advantage.
The only Harris Co. House districts that saw a shift toward the Republicans were seats held by Democrats, and most of them retained insurmountable straight-party advantages.
Like HD134, CD7 has also experienced a dramatic decline in Republican advantage in just six years. In 2012, U.S. Rep. John Culberson (R-Houston) had a 42K-vote advantage in straight-party voting. It shrunk to 32K in 2014, but that was driven more by lower turnout than shifting demographics. By 2016, the Republican straight-party advantage was under 18K. This year, it was just over 4K, driven entirely by an increase in straight-party Democratic voting (up 14K).
The Republican advantage also shrunk in open CD2, falling to 22K from 37K in 2016, again driven almost entirely by an increase in straight-party Democratic voting (up 18K).
This was the last year voters will be able to cast a straight-party vote with a single punch, mark or other action. In 2017, the Legislature repealed the single-punch, straight-party option but delayed its implementation until 2020.
©2018 Texas Election Source LLC