Don't Do It!
More specifically, don't just walk up to the voting machine, enter your PIN, push a button to vote for the party of your preference, and have done with it. If you do, here is what it means:
- You don't care that you may have voted for some random morons whom the primary voters nominated in their ignorance.
- You don't care that you may have skipped voting in races where your party did not field a candidate.
- You don't care that others before you risked their lives for the right to vote, or that your state's government and self-appointed vote vigilantes are still actively working to suppress the vote for students, the poor, and people of color (all of whom tend to vote for Democrats).
- You deprive yourself of the chance to vote in non-partisan state and local referenda...and you don't care.
If anybody tells you that your straight-ticket vote implies a Yes or No vote for any of those referenda, that person is either misinformed or flat-out lying to you.
By my reckoning, in 2014, most of the 200,000-plus undervotes in my race for County Judge resulted from straight-ticket Democrat votes. That year, the Democratic nominee dropped out of the race in August. Most Democrats who bothered to vote either didn't know that they had no Democratic choice on the ballot, didn't care, or both. By comparison, the undervote in the special election for District Attorney was only about 21,000.
Modified Straight Party Voting
If you punch a straight-party vote, don't stop there. Continue to look through the ballot and add or change votes as needed. If you find nobody else for whom you can vote in good conscience, at least you looked.
For example, I might punch Straight Party for the Greens, which would fill in the boxes for Green candidates in eight races. Then I would look at other races and cast votes for the least objectionable non-Greens (in my case, mostly Democrats, as I stated last week).
Maybe I wouldn't bother to vote in the dozens of state district court races, for which there are far too many candidates to get properly informed without reading the indispensable Off the Kuff regularly. Besides, if we must have partisan elections for judges, we should at least find some way to divide the districts geographically within the county.
Lastly, I would vote either FOR or AGAINST Houston ISD's Proposition 1. If you do not live in HISD, you don't get this one on your ballot. I have made up my mind, but I ain't tellin'.
Apparently, because I don't live in the Heights, I don't get to vote on whether the "dry" area of Houston Heights will finally be allowed to have off-premise beer and wine retailing. My sister and brother-in-law do live there, and they are probably tired of wandering into the Kroger on West 20th Street for a bottle of wine or a six-pack, smacking their foreheads and saying aloud, "Oh, yeah! This is the dry Kroger!" Some locals are referring to this referendum as the HEB proposition, because HEB wants to build a new supermarket on the site of the defunct Fiesta Mart at North Shepherd Drive and West 23rd Street, but they won't if they can't sell alcohol there.
A Note about Down-Ticket Greens
Most Harris County residents have Green candidates only for President and VP, Railroad Commissioner, three Supreme Court seats, two seats on the Court of Criminal Appeals, and US House. Some of us can also vote Green for Texas House (Districts 127 and 147). Some other counties around Texas have county- and precinct-level candidates as well. But because the Texas Election Code requires that one candidate for statewide office receive at least 5% of the vote in order for that candidate's party to retain ballot access, Texas Greens place particular emphasis on recruiting statewide candidates.
So if you're a progressive Texan who believes that Texas is now a swing state, and that a vote for Hillary Clinton is the only thing between you and a living under President Donald J. Trump, you can still vote for Greens down the ballot and help us reach that vital 5%.