Speaker Joe Straus said the state should end straight-party voting. Prompted by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht’s State of the Judiciary address, Straus said, “Too often, good men and women are swept out of down-ballot offices due to the political winds at the moment.”
Speaking before a joint session of the Legislature, Hecht called for removing judicial elections (pdf) from straight-party voting. “Many good judges lost solely because voters in their districts preferred a presidential candidate in the other party,” Hecht said. “Qualifications did not drive their election. Partisan politics did.”
Texas and Alabama are the only states that initially elect, then re-elect, its judiciary in partisan elections where voters may cast a single vote for all candidates of a political party. Texas has the highest rate of straight-party voting among the 10 states that still use it, resulting in very little spread between the highest and lowest shares of the vote among a party’s judicial candidates at any level of geography.
A recent study by Rice University’s Mark Jones observed the same effect.
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