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Simmons: Texas, it’s time to end straight-ticket voting

Much has been made of the personalities and deficiencies of the candidates at the top of the ticket this November. However, far less attention was paid to the actual issues each candidate believed in — much less the issues that separated candidates toward the bottom of the ballot.

Straight-party-ticket voting allows voters to check one box and have the entire ballot completed for them. As a result, the voter casts a ballot for a party’s entire slate of candidates. This election was a textbook lesson in why “convenience” voting does not always produce the best results up and down the ballot.

For this reason, I believe Texas should join 41 other states in eliminating straight-ticket voting. The Founding Fathers’ concept of the self-governance of our nation relied on entrusting voting rights to an educated (not just informed) electorate. When the campaign becomes about personalities and parties, the need to research and be educated on the platforms, records and issues of each candidate is obscured or overlooked entirely.

For example, I wonder how many straight-party-ticket voters on the Democratic side knew that not only were they casting a ballot for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but also for my opponent, who has run for office four times under three different party banners, including as a write-in candidate for vice president under the Socialist Party in 2012? I seriously doubt that the vast majority of Democrats in Texas House District 65 are socialist. I am sure examples on the other side of the political aisle could be sighted as well.

The fact of the matter is, too often voters focus on top-of-the-ballot races with little regard for the policies of local candidates, who almost always have a much bigger impact on their day-to-day lives. Removing “one box” voting will also require all candidates to get out their message and their goals if elected. It prevents them from hiding behind a party banner that may or may not reflect their personal views or policies.

Voters would still be free to vote only for the candidates of a single party, but it would require them to make each choice individually, and hopefully lead them to become more educated about the process, the candidates and the issues affecting them.

Isn’t our way of life and system of government important enough to merit reflection on each candidate for elected office? With the onslaught of new voters this cycle and the vitriol at the top of the ticket, I am confident that many votes were cast down ballot with little or no education by the voter.

I introduced HB 1288 in the 84th Legislature to remedy this, but it died in committee. I just filed a similar bill for the upcoming 85th Legislature, and I ask you to call your senators and representatives asking for their support of this important legislation — and, even more importantly, civics lesson — for our fellow Texans.

Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, represents House District 65, which includes parts of Carrollton, Lewisville, Highland Village, Dallas and Coppell.

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