Lack of candidates leaves Texas voters with little choice in November

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September 15, 2010

By Jimmy Ardis

2010 state legislative elections analyzed using a Competitiveness Index

AUSTIN, Texas: The Lubbock-Avalanche Journal recently ran an editorial on the lack of candidates running for Texas State Legislature in the November general elections, specifically noting the lack of third parties on the ballot.[1] Commenting on the decline of libertarian and green candidates, the article explains that "despite all the angry voter talk the electorate doesn’t have many choices this year, particularly in legislative races. And the way it looks, Texas is likely to remain a two-party stronghold in the foreseeable future."[1] Libertarians are running candidates in just 50 of the 150 house seats up for grabs in November, down from 88 Libertarian Party contenders in 2006.

Controversy surrounds a successful petition to get the Green Party on the ballot in Texas for the first time in eight years. The Greens' success was largely due to an influx of more than $500,000 from GOP operatives in Arizona, a move which has Texas Democrats fuming over a perceived effort to split the Democratic vote.[1] Richard Winger of Ballot Access News notes that the important point in this story isn't the alleged Republican attempt at splitting the liberal vote, but that it took more than a half-million dollars to get a minor party on the ballot.[2] Overly stringent ballot access laws make it extremely difficult for third parties to get on the ballot in many states, a situation that favors entrenched major parties and limits voter options at the ballot box.

Winger makes another salient observation by noting that it's not just a lack of third parties that limits Texas voters' choices, but also a lack of major party competition. "All 150 seats are up in the State House of Representatives. Democrats aren’t running anyone in 55 of the seats, and Republicans aren’t running anyone in 38 of the seats.[2] This means that in 93 races out of 150, there is no Republican-Democratic contest," says Winger. In essence, those candidates walk into office without a fight. Ballotpedia is tracking this lack of major party competition in every state senate and house race across the nation.

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