Split along party lines, the Texas Senate on Wednesday gave initial approval to a bill that would end straight-party voting, requiring every candidate on state ballots to be chosen individually.
Democrats opposed House Bill 25, saying it could discourage voting in a state with an already low voter participation rate.
“Frankly, I don’t see any purpose for this legislation other than trying to dilute the vote of Democrats and, more specifically, minorities,” said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.
The Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, said the change would “encourage candidates to work as hard as they possibly can to educate voters as much as possible.” Other supporters have said the change would encourage voters to better research candidates whose races appear lower on ballots.
West, who predicted the change would be challenged in court if it becomes law, asked Hancock if the bill’s authors had studied its impact on minority voters.
Such a study was not conducted, Hancock replied. “We considered all voters,” he said.
Final Senate approval is expected Thursday, sending HB 25 back to the House because an amendment was added delaying the end of straight-party voting until 2020.
Hancock said the delay was intended to give candidates and election officials time to adapt to the change.