Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why NOT to Vote Party Line

Voting in local and state races is important, because the people who are elected for School Board and Railroad Commissioner actually have a a big impact on our lives. 

Unfortunately, while people are often knowledgeable about the candidates for more prominent political offices like Senators and Govenors, many are less knowledgeable about other elected offices like Land Commissioner, Comptroller, and Judges, and being less knowledgeable voters often choose these candidates based on a single factor:  their party.  I have seen evidence of this in my own city, where year after year the "smaller" state and local positions are won by amazingly similar margins, a pattern not seen in the higher ranking positions.  You would expect that the margins would be drastically different in a race where the republican candidate had been tied to a financial scandal and was running against a highly qualified Democrat, and another where the Republican candidate was highly qualified for the job and the Democratic candidate had little experience related to the position, and a third race where two highly qualified candidates with nearly identical positions on the issues were running.  But in all of these races the Republican won by nearly the exact same margin.  This tells me these races were won due to straight party line voting. 

I've been a registered Republican since I could vote, so why does this concern me?  Here's why...

  • Candidates sometimes run for "minor" positions in hope that they can work their way up to more powerful political positions.  These candidates may not care very much about the position they're running for, or be very qualified it. But in districts that predominantly sway towards one party they can be elected entirely through party line votes.
  • Party line votes by uninformed voters can allow corrupt or inept incumbents to remain in office.  
  • Sometimes the reasons you support a specific party can be irrelevant to a positions.  For instance, you may usually vote Republican or Democrat because of your views on abortion, but some local positions (like Railroad Commissioner) have no bearing on that issue.  
  • You can't assume that because someone is running under as a Democrat or Republican or any other party that they uphold all the positions of that party.  You might find, if you researched, that another candidate is actually closer to your views on the issues most important to you. 
  • Minor races are one place where third party candidates have a better chance of winning, so if you would like to have more choices on who to vote for, this is the best place to give third party candidates a chance. 

I would love to hear what you think about voting straight party line!  Share your opinions below.  And if you have a blog post in any way related to Texas Politics, you can share it here.


  1. These are definitely some good points. Do you know how to find out who will be on the ballot in my area/district for the smaller elections?

  2. Hi Jill! Here's a place to start:

    You can also try looking at you city website or local newspaper. Sometimes they don't make it easy. I really wish they did in Texas what they do out in California, which is send everyone a packet that lists all the candidates and allows each candidate a one paragraph statement by each candidate who's running. It wasn't usually enough to decide on, but it was enough to get you started.

  3. Interesting! We just moved to a smaller town so we know NOTHING about local candidates.

  4. I absolutely agree - but I think my political stances have always been unusual in that they diverge pretty wildly from issue to issue, at least in terms of partisanship. But yes, I think it's always good to be informed of each candidate and proposition.