The House Elections Committee approved a bill to end the “single-punch” option for straight-party voting by a 5-2 party line vote following more than an hour of public testimony.

Rep. Ron Simmons

Rep. Ron
Simmons

Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) explained that House Bill 25 was about getting voters to think about the candidates on the ballot and not just vote blindly for candidates of one party. Limited knowledge about the candidates leads to bad candidates getting elected, Simmons told the House Elections Committee, and “that yields bad government.” Simmons said that candidates running for levels of government closest to the people are typically the least scrutinized. Simmons cited examples from several states where eliminating the single-punch option resulted in increased participation down the ballot, particularly for races and propositions that were nonpartisan.

Voters would still have the option of voting for all candidates from the same party if they chose, Simmons said.

More than a dozen witnesses provided testimony, including Texas Election Source’s Jeff Blaylock, who described how increasing levels of straight-party voting have fueled a self-reinforcing cycle leading to fewer candidates running, fewer people being interested in going through the ballot and more people using the “single-punch” option. Blaylock said the impact was particularly striking at the county level, where nearly 90% of county offices went uncontested on the general election ballot in 2016.

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