Unlike previous elections, Democratic down-ballot candidates in 2010 were unable to withstand national trends that had people flocking to the polls to vote against national Democratic policy and for GOP leaders. Some ousted Democrats have blamed straight-ticket voting for their defeats.
The Texas Independent looked at 2010 vote totals in 13 large- and mid-sized counties (Bexar, Collin, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Fort Bend, Harris, Hidalgo, Montgomery, Nueces, Tarrant, Travis and Williamson counties) and compared them to past elections. The 2010 totals were taken from the elections page of each county’s website, while data on straight-ticket voting from prior years were taken from an April 2010 post by Charles Kuffner on Off the Kuff. Other voting data was drawn from the Texas Secretary of State.
In Nueces County — where Democratic U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, his son state Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr. and state Rep. Abel Herrero were upset by Republicans Blake Farenthold, Raul Torres and Connie Scott — the GOP’s share of straight-ticket votes (not counting third parties) was about 54 percent, an increase of 11 and 13 percentage points from 2006 and 2002, respectively.
In total, 4,000 more Republicans cast straight-ticket votes in Nueces in 2010 than they did in 2006 (and 2,800 more than 2002), while Democratic straight-ticket votes dropped by 1,600 from 2006 and 4,600 from 2002. While Democrat Bill White generally performed better than 2002 Democratic governor nominee Tony Sanchez, Nueces voters in 2010 picked Republican Gov. Rick Perry over White, 53-45 percent. In 2002, Nueces went for Sanchez 49-48 percent.
The 2006 elections featured a large field of governor candidates, including Perry, Democrat Chris Bell and independents Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman.
In El Paso County — the site of Democratic losses by state Rep. Joe Moody and State Board of Education member Rene Nunez — the GOP’s share of straight-ticket votes was 33 percent, 5 points higher than 2006 and 9 points higher than 2002. Moody and Nunez were defeated by Republicans Dee Margo and Carlos “Charlie” Garza. About 4,700 more Republicans cast straight-ticket votes than in 2006, and about 4,000 more Democrats. Compared to 2002, about 3,200 more Republicans voted straight-ticket in El Paso — while 8,100 fewer Democrats did the same.
Of the counties analyzed, El Paso straight-ticket voters favored Democrats by the largest proportion, 67 percent.
Nueces and El Paso were the only counties surveyed where voters cast fewer ballots for the governor’s race in 2010 than they did in 2006 and 2002. Nueces’ vote totals dropped 5,800 from 2006 and 7,000 from 2002, while El Paso’s dropped by 2,300 and 8,000.
In Harris County, the state’s largest county and the site of many Democratic defeats, straight-ticket Republican voters outnumbered Democrats 290,000 to 240,000. GOP straight-ticket ballots increased by 150,000 since 2006 and 105,000 since 2002. Democratic ballots increased 94,000 and 68,000.
White beat Perry in Harris 50-48 percent, a 7-point improvement over Sanchez in 2002.
During the 2008 presidential election, when Democrats nearly won enough seats to strike a partisan balance in the Texas House, Republicans won 48 percent of straight-ticket votes in the 13 counties analyzed. In 2010, Republicans won 56 percent of straight-ticket votes.
In 2002, 54 percent of straight-ticket ballots were Republican. In 2004, the GOP won 55 percent of straight-ticket ballots. In 2006, the GOP won 51 percent.
Compared to 2008, the GOP’s share of straight-ticket ballots rose in each of the 13 counties in 2010.
Of the 13 counties surveyed, Montgomery was the reddest, with straight-ticket GOP ballots accounting for 53 percent of all votes cast. About 85 percent of them were Republican. (Randall County straight-ticket voters broke 88 percent in favor of the GOP, while Midland County straight-ticket voters broke 86 percent for the GOP.)
More than 67 percent of all votes cast in the state’s two biggest counties were straight ballots. About 37 percent of Harris County votes were GOP ballots and 31 percent were Democratic ballots. In Dallas, 31 percent of all votes were GOP and 36 percent were Democratic.
In Tarrant County, where two Democratic state House members lost close battles, 66 percent of all votes cast were straight-ticket, with GOP ballots accounting for 42 percent of all votes and Democratic ballots accounting for 24 percent. GOP ballots in Tarrant outnumbered Democratic ballots by 62,000, the largest net advantage for Republicans in the state.
Statewide, 2010 turnout was about 5.0 million voters (37.5 percent of registered voters), with about 2.6 million ballots cast during early voting. That’s up from 17 percent from 2006 and 11 percent from 2002. In 2006, Texans cast 4.3 million votes (30.9 percent of registered voters) and 4.5 million in 2002 (34 percent). In 2008, 8.1 million Texans cast ballots for President (54 percent).
(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Dawn Endico, Image by: Matt Mahurin)Tags: Bill White, Dallas, el paso, election day, Harris, montgomery, nueces, Rick Perry, straight party voting, straight-ticket voting, tarrant