Straight-ticket ballots damage judicial branch, chief justice says
Nathan Hecht, chief justice on the Texas Supreme Court, spoke in front of the legislature last Wednesday in Austin, calling for an end to straight-ticket voting in the Lone Star State.
Texas is one of four states that offers the single-lever (or pencil stroke) option, and we hope our legislators nix it to help depoliticize the branch of government that should stress weighted rationale and experience over politics.
The practice also weighs heavily on big personalities at the top of the tickets who tend to suck up all the air during political races. Many justices and other down-ballot candidates don’t stand a chance.
Hecht, the Republican justice praised for his intellectual clarity on judicial decisions, said, “Such partisan sweeps are demoralizing to judges and disruptive to the legal system.”
Straight-ticket ballots offer simplicity to our most partisan citizens, but not much else. It certainly does not encourage the study of individual candidates, their platforms or qualifications. One could argue it has increased the polarization of our society, and that, as commentator Ross Ramsey wrote, it “stresses partisan coattails over brains.”
“Every election seems to end with an unintended consequence, often a good judge tossed aside because the political winds replaced one party’s flag with another — or a loon elected by voters who actually knew nothing about their candidate,” Ramsey wrote. “Judges have been frustrated by that for a long, long time, arguing against straight-ticket voting, against partisan judicial elections, against judicial elections of any kind — and for anything that could arguably replace selections based on the ever-changing political climate with selections somehow related to merit and job performance.
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