Advocate editorial board opinion: Voters should vote best candidate, not straight ticket

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Nov. 30, 2010 at 5:30 a.m.

Is straight-ticket voting laziness on the voter's part? The argument for pushing a button for a single party's ticket seems to be that a party represents some moral or ethics, so it stands to reason that all the candidates of that party's ticket hold these morals and ethics to the highest standard.

We don't think so. The idea to choose the best candidate in any race is the best way to vote, but that also would require the voter to do his homework. And that's really the problem in this argument. By the way, voting for the best candidate was the reason straight-ticket voting began to decline in 1970.

And several states have done away with straight-ticket voting since then, leaving 16 states - including Texas - that have held on to this voting method.

A good example of why voters go for the straight ticket is the recent November ballot, which was chock-full of candidates nobody heard of or knew much about. One look at the ballot with all the races and names was enough for a voter to decide on voting straight ticket rather than picking through to find good candidates.

District judge candidates, for example, present a political miasma: What do they do? What makes a good district judge? Why should I vote for a candidate trying to unseat an incumbent with experience? Should a district judge be a Republican or a Democrat, and how would that affect his judgments? Has the incumbent been doing a good job, and how do you measure that?

A voter would have to spend great amounts of time to research each district judge candidate to vote for the best candidate. Time is the problem because most voters won't invest the required hours to find out. And many think these positions are obscure, so they avoid them while going through the ballot. But many more go for a straight ticket: It's easy and quick. But we don't think the voter has really done his duty by succumbing to this easy way out.

All of this is a good argument for appointing judges by peers and qualified law experts. One of the benefits of appointing judges would be greatly simplified ballots - fewer candidates on the ballot would encourage voters to do more homework and vote for those who they think would serve best.

And speaking of homework, at the county level, our county party leaders should take more responsibility and work on recruiting good qualified candidates on the ballot to represent their respective party. This is another mark against straight party voting. On the other hand, many of these county positions should be treated like city candidates, who are not affiliated with a party.

We think - as many in 34 other states thought - that straight voting is an antiquated, harmful way to vote.

Inevitably, bad candidates would get elected in this process. We urge all voters to do their homework before voting, and avoid straight voting.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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