TEXAS,(KLTV) - When election day comes back around in 2020, Texas voters will notice a difference in how they cast their ballots.
That’s due to a bill Governor Gregg Abbott signed in June 2017 to eliminate straight-party-ticket voting. Some local politicians say the practice had a big impact on yesterday’s outcomes.
“Straight-ticket voting has always been a source of problem to political messaging here in Texas,” says Rabbi Neal Katz, former House of Representatives candidate. “People go in and they vote for party without actually thinking about the individual and their message.”
House Bill 25 removes the straight-ticket option from Texas ballots after September 2020.
Following his defeat in the state representative race, Katz, who ran as an independent against incumbent republican Matt Schaefer for district 6, says straight-party voting is partly to blame.
“I’m actually glad in 2020 that it will be gone,” says Katz.
Schaefer beat Katz by over 25,000 votes in the 2018 midterms election. In Smith County, 50,000 of the 77,000 total votes cast were straight party. 36,000 of those were straight republican. Schaefer voted in favor of the bill, saying it will hopefully lead to voters making more informed decisions.
“It’s a bit of a civics lesson for all of us where were able to see a person’s name next to that position and that makes it come to our mind, and we think about what does the agriculture commission do,” says Schaefer. “So it can start conversations.”
Katz says going forward, it may give independents a better chance.
“The idea of having to run a campaign based on your message, your personality, your community involvement is going to be much more crucial than just running behind a party banner,” says Katz.
Critics of the bill, such as Smith County Democratic chairman Michael Tolbert, say it may have a negative impact.
"I believe that the elimination of the straight-party voting will cause longer lines in areas where they already have long lines and that’s going to hurt people in urban areas which tend to be democratic” says Tolbert.
Tolbert added that going forward they plan to do more to educate voters about the individual candidates, but says it’s still going to come out to a matter of turnout.