Almost 68 percent of voters in Texas voted straight ticket during the 2018 general election, according to a new report from the Austin Community College Center for Public Policy and Political Studies.
It was the last major election in which voters could cast a straight-ticket ballot in Texas. During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers eliminated the option starting in 2020.
According to the study, “a record level of 67.49 percent” of voters voted straight-ticket in the November election, which is more than a 6-percentage-point increase compared to the 2014 election.
Peck Young, the center’s director and author of the report, said this was the highest percentage of straight-ticket voting he's seen in the 20 years he has monitored it. He said the rise is likely due to a “higher level of partisanship.”
“People are Democrats and people are Republicans and that’s how they voted,” Young said.
Historically, straight-ticket voting has always been fairly high in Texas. Young said that during most elections, about 60 to 62 percent of Texans vote straight ticket.
Even though it’s popular, lawmakers decided in 2017 to eliminate the option.
“This change would encourage voters to learn more about individual candidates, their platforms and their qualifications,” then-House Speaker Joe Straus said in a statement at the time. “Too often, good men and women are swept out of down-ballot offices due to the political winds at the moment.”
Young said voting straight ticket is not a reflection of voters not being educated, however. He said the reverse is true.
“What it is is people who have decided on a brand,” he said. “They know about top-of-the-ticket candidates or they may know about someone in a local area … but what they are really fired up about is their party.”
That’s why Young said he doesn’t think the end of straight-ticket voting means voters are going to start voting for both parties at the polls more often.
“We don’t think we are finished seeing people just go down the ballot hitting all the Democrats or all the Republicans,” he said.
Young said he thinks the end of straight-ticket voting will cause longer lines because people will take longer to vote. He said he also thinks down-ballot races will suffer because people – from both parties – won’t want to finish the whole ballot.
Ultimately, Young said, it’s hard to tell right now how not having straight-ticket voting will affect Texas politics.
“We don’t know the answer,” he said. “We have no idea whatsoever – because we have never done it before, because straight-ticket voting is over 100 years old.”