Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on the various aspects of elections and campaigning in Texas. An emphasis is placed on voter turnout, barriers to voting, especially among minorities, and the impact of campaign finance.

Elections in Texas have gone through an enormous set of changes over the last four decades. Long-standing barriers such as “all-White primaries,” the poll tax, economic harassment, and physical intimidation made the election process in Texas less democratic. While those barriers were overcome, primarily through federal action, one-partyism persisted throughout the state, making Democratic Party primaries more important than the November general election. However, beginning in the 1950s, conservative Democrats joined the growing ranks of Republicans in supporting Republican Party candidates for president. Whereas Texas was dominated by the Democratic Party for most of the state’s history, since the mid-1990s statewide elections have been dominated by Republicans. The Republican Party also holds the majority of seats in the Texas Legislature and in the state’s congressional delegation.

Although Texas has a long tradition of frequent elections and several races and candidates to choose from throughout the state’s institutions of government, voter turnout has been historically low. In contrast to elections nationwide, elections in the state legislature have become less competitive, with the number of uncontested races increasing. Texans participate in several types of elections to both fill elected seats and decide policy issues. Fund-raising and the role of money in legislative and statewide elections have grown significantly, as money can buy the “ability to be heard” and affect the electoral process.