Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Voters should choose based on merits
By the Advocate Editorial Board
Feb. 27, 2014 at 6:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 26, 2014 at 8:27 p.m.
On Tuesday, people across Texas will make their way to the ballot box to cast their votes in the state primary election. We encourage all of our readers to vote and help decide how our state and county will be run.
However, as the primary election approaches and voters prepare to cast their votes, we cannot help but question why county-level and judicial elections must be included in the partisan system. It is true, the current system is mandated in the state constitution. But we question if the use of party alignments is truly necessary at the county level and if it truly serves the needs of constituents in judicial races.
Ideally, all citizens would take it upon themselves to research each candidate running for office and make a decision based on each individual's merits. The partisan system offers an easy way out in the form of the straight-ticket vote. Instead of researching, a voter in a general election can simply press a button or pull a lever, and every candidate in the voter's preferred party will receive a vote under the assumption that their beliefs will align with the party whose label they bear. In primary elections, voters must choose which party's election they will vote in and narrow down the list of candidates for the general election. This method of voting in only one of two major races is a disservice to voters. It poses the dilemma of choosing between important races and forfeiting the ability to vote on half of the potential ballot.
In a county-level race, voters should be able to get to know candidates and judge their abilities free from a label that is too often tied to messy controversies and political posturing in Washington, D.C., that often has little to do with the everyday business of a county government. Voters have access to information from a myriad of different sources, including the local media and groups such as the League of Women Voters, which collects candidate information on national, state and local levels. Using these resources and through forums that allow voters to interact with candidates, voters should have plenty of opportunities to educate themselves on the merits of individual candidates and vote accordingly.
In judicial races, candidates should receive even more scrutiny. A judge holds a powerful office that can have a major impact on the lives of individuals or and entire state. Because these positions are so influential, it is even more crucial that voters choose candidates based on personal merits and convictions without relying on a party label.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Make no mistake, we firmly believe that county-level and judicial positions should be decided through elections. Elected officials are held accountable by their need to answer to their constituents during elections. But as the political parties on the national stage grow ever more polarized and the overblown political drama spills over into our communities, we hope that voters will tire of the unending rhetoric and make an effort to look past labels to choose the best candidates for each position. No two people are exactly the same, and not everyone will follow a party line, even if he or she chooses to wear the label. The best way that voters can choose is to look past the party alignment and examine each of the candidates for their merits, goals and experience. That is a voter's true civic duty.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.