On straight tickets and other votes

I have and will continue to have more to say about straight ticket votes. Part of me is reluctant to talk about this stuff, because I feel like we’ve reached a point where straight ticket votes are seen as less than other votes, and I don’t want to contribute in any way to that. But given all the talk we’ve already had, and the unending stream of baloney about the ridiculously outsized effect they supposedly had in this election, I feel like I need to shed what light I can on what the data actually says. So onward we go.

Today I want to look at a few districts of interest, and separate out the straight ticket votes from the other votes. Again, I hesitated to do this at first because I object so strenuously to the trope that straight ticket votes tipped an election in a particular way, to the detriment of the losing candidate. If a plethora of straight ticket votes helped propel a candidate to victory, it’s because there was a surplus of voters who supported that candidate, and not because of anything nefarious. We call that “winning the election”, and it stems from the condition of having more people vote for you than for the other person. Anyone who claims otherwise is marinating in sour grapes.

So. With that said, here’s a look at how the vote broke down in certain districts.


Straight R = 109,529
Straight D =  87,667

Crenshaw      29,659
Litton        32,325


Straight R =  90,933
Straight D =  86,640

Culberson     24,709
Fletcher      41,319

If you want to believe in the fiction that straight ticket votes determined the elections, and not the totality of the voters in the given political entity, then please enjoy the result in CD02, where Dan Crenshaw rode the straight ticket vote to victory. Those of us who refuse to engage in such nonsense will merely note that CD02 remained a Republican district despite two cycles of clear movement in a Democratic direction. And then there’s CD07, which stands in opposition to the claim that straight ticket votes are destiny, for if they were then John Culberson would not be shuffling off to the Former Congressman’s Home.


Straight R =  24,093
Straight D =  19,491

Harless        6,306
Hurtado        5,544


Straight R =  27,287
Straight D =  26,561

Schofield      5,441
Calanni        6,280


Straight R =  27,315
Straight D =  30,634

Davis         19,962
Sawyer        11,003


Straight R =  22,035
Straight D =  22,541

Elkins         4,666
Rosenthal      5,932


Straight R =  18,837
Straight D =  18,746

Bohac          5,385
Milasincic     5,429

HD126 and HD135 were consistent, with straight ticket and non-straight ticket votes pointing in the same direction. Gina Calanni was able to overcome Mike Schofield’s straight ticket lead, while Adam Milasincic was not quite able to do the same. As for HD134, this is one part a testament to Sarah Davis’ crossover appeal, and one part a warning to her that this district may not be what it once was. Republicans are going to have some tough decisions to make in the 2021 redistricting if they want to hold onto this district.


Straight R =  86,756
Straight D =  92,927

Morman        25,981
Garcia        21,887


Straight R = 132,207
Straight D = 122,325

Flynn         32,964
Duhon         40,989


Straight R = 144,217
Straight D = 122,999

Cagle         42,545
Shaw          34,448

Finally, a Democrat gets a boost from straight ticket voting. I had figured Adrian Garcia would run ahead of the pack in Commissioners Court Precinct 2, but that wasn’t the case. I attribute Jack Morman’s resiliency to his two terms as incumbent and his millions in campaign cash, but in the end they weren’t enough. As was the case with CD02 for Dan Crenshaw, CC2 was too Democratic for Morman. That’s a shift from 2016, where Republicans generally led the way in the precinct, and shows another aspect of the Republican decline in the county. You see that also in CC3, where many Dems did win a majority and Andrea Duhon came close, and in CC4, which is at this point the last stronghold for Republicans. Democrats are pulling their weight out west, and that had repercussions this year that will continue to be felt in 2020 and beyond.

There’s still more to the straight ticket voting data that I want to explore. I keep thinking I’m done, then I keep realizing I’m not. Hope this has been useful to you.

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15 Responses to On straight tickets and other votes

  1. Greg Wythe says:

    One minor point to include in this: If you vote straight ticket and change your vote in another contest, both the straight party vote *and* the individual candidate vote counts. So if there was a straight-ticket Dem voter who changed their HD134 vote to Sarah Davis, both votes would count.

  2. Dan Wallach says:

    FWIW, a “straight ticket voter” will still be able to do so. They’ll just have to work their way down the ballot, race by race. The interesting question is how much more time it will take and what that will do to the lines. Some voters will be more likely to “roll off” and not work their way to the downballot races, but exactly nobody knows what the partisan impact of that effect might be.

  3. CJ Farley says:

    I find it interesting to think about the non-straight ticket voters AND the undervotes in ‘down ballot’ races. In 2014, we saw about 220k non-straight ticket votes, and about 31.5k undervotes in downballot races (32 % and 4.5 % of the voters). In 2016, it was 452k non-straight ticket vote (33 %) and ~ 69k undervote (~ 5.1 %). In 2018, 287k non-straight ticket vote (23.5 % of total) and 35k undervote (2.9 %). What that means is that in each year, the following non-straight ticket voter counts made decisions in all these “down ballot” races:

    2014 – 188k
    2016 – 383k
    2018 – 252k

    2018 is the one where Republicans want to blame straight ticket voting? It isn’t consistent.

    The point Greg makes above is worth noting, but assuming the straight ticket voters didn’t touch their ballot, that means a typical judicial race in 2018 got 130-140k of those non-straight ticket votes, about 55 % or so, meaning they did similar in non-straight ticket voting as straight ticket voting.

    The main ‘complaint’ I’ve seen about straight ticket is in regards to County Judge – that race saw even FEWER undervotes, only 22040, or 1.8 % of the voters participating (265k voters CHOSE to participate in this race without voting straight ticket). The non-straight ticket vote went about 166k for Emmett, 79.2k for Hidalgo. Note, a libertarian candidate (Gatlin) in this race also received 24k votes, about 127 % of the margin Hildalgo won by. You may as well complain about the third party candidate causing Emmett to lose.

    My takeaway – regardless of straight ticket, this 2018 election WAS a democratic wave. I think we see the same results with or without straight ticket voting.

    The point Dan makes is true, too – the time spent on the process of voting will increase. However, I’m hopeful Diane Trautman will address this with county wide voting centers with an abundance of voting machines and robust mail ballot programs.

  4. Jules says:

    Greg, no.

  5. Bob says:

    Greg- if you vote straight ticket and then go down ballot and vote for the other party’s candidate, that particular changes and while your selection of all the other candidates remains the same, your down ballot selection supersedes that particular race, and your vote is no longer “straight ticket.” As a side-note, the consensus among republicans during the 2017 legislative session (when straight ticket voting was outlawed) was that 2018 would favor R’s, just like 2010 and 2014. That’s why the republican state legislature delayed implementation of the ban until 2020, as they thought the straight ticket voting would be in R’s favor in 2018. I also think that if someone is motivated enough to go vote, they will be motivated enough to go down ballot and vote for the candidate of their choice.

  6. C.L. says:

    I think what Greg is describing is exactly why we kept seeing folks on local news saying their vote was changed on the last page of the electronic ballot from John Doe to Jane Smith. Voter fraud ! SkyNet is robbing my vote ! Must be a government-led conspiracy ! #WitchHunt !

    Dang those confusing and confounded voting machines ! God forbid we actually take the time to run through a ballot from beginning to end and make a conscience, informed decision over who or what we’re voting for.

  7. Jules says:

    He is saying you voted twice, once for each candidate. That’s wrong. He also says it’s minor. If it were true, it would be major.

  8. C.L. says:

    I’m with you, Jules. Perhaps Greg knows not what he speaks, or is confused on what actually takes/took place.

  9. Mainstream says:

    A fascinating analysis. I would never have expected that Congressman Culberson would have lost a district with more straight ticket R voters.

    I would caution that the figures for “straight ticket” voters are both over and under-inclusive. Some of those voters punched their party, but also went down the ballot and switched a few votes here and there. Others may have voted for every single candidate of their party one at a time, but as a matter of principle just refuse to punch the Party button, or did not trust it to record their vote properly as a result of some of the (overblown) news coverage about voting machine problems.

  10. brad says:


    Greg and Mainstream are correct in their representation of how Harris County’s voting machines work.

    And alas there is no data on how many folks may have selected straight party ticket and then selected/changed an individual race for a candidate that is from the party other than their straight party selection.

  11. Manny Barrera says:

    I understood Greg to mean that when one votes straight ticket, it counts as a straight ticket vote.

    If one then goes and selects a person from another party, that votes also counts.

    I did not take it to mean that one gets to vote for both a Democrat and a Republican.

    What it means to me is that simple under vote counting is not exact, it may be close enough however like calculus.

  12. Greg Wythe says:

    What i meant was pretty straightforward (and accurate, according to the Clerk’s office). Theoretically, if there were 100 total votes, all cast for one party on the straight ticket line (a 100-0 showing), it would be possible to see a 99-1 outcome elsewhere down the ballot.

  13. Help an old Rice academ out here. I’m still not 100% clear on what the numbers next to the candidates’ names indicate. They’re certainly not total votes, or total straight-ticket votes, or crossover votes from what I can figure.

  14. ^ Non-straight-ticket votes?

  15. David – The numbers next to the candidates’ names are the total non-straight ticket votes they got. So for example, in HD126, Republican Sam Harless received 30,399 total votes, of which 24,093 were part of a straight ticket Republican ballot. The remaining 6,306 votes, which were cast by the people who did not punch the “straight ticket Republican” button, are what is shown next to his name.

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