Texas Editorial: 'Axing' Straight-Party Voting Won't Fix Selection Flaws

Electing judges is “no way to choose officials who can change Texans’ lives with their decisions,” states a Ft. Worth Star-Telegram editorial.

Of the eight million Texans who voted int he presidential election, only six million voted in four of six races to decide who would sit on the state’s highest appeals courts. With many voters simply skipping the down-ballot races or voting straight-ticket, it is entirely possible most Texans “might have known nothing about the candidates in the six statewide judicial contests.”

For many voters who chose the straight-ticket option, their vote didn’t count at all unless they voted Republican or Libertarian; The Democrats and the Green Party ran candidates in only two statewide races.

“Results like those make it increasingly difficult to buy into the fiction that Texans want to elect their judges,” the editorial states. 

Several legislators have tried to address the impact of straight-party voting in judicial elections. Sen. Dan Patrick has pre-filed S.B. 103, which would remove straight-party voting for judicial offices from the Texas Supreme Court down through justices of the peace.

While state Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson has embraced the removal of partisan voting from judicial elections, he has also advocated for the state switching to a merit selection system. Jefferson, the editorial states, “understands how disruptive it is when veteran jurists are replaced — strictly because of political affiliation — by newbies who must get up to speed not just on the cases but on how to be a judge.”

In order to get “big-money contributions” and partisan politics out of judicial elections, the Star-Telegram editorial board continues to support switching over to a “system of appointment and retention” for Texas judges.

“Axing straight-party voting in judicial races might slow down pendulum swings, but it won’t correct bigger flaws in Texas judicial selection,” the editorial states.

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