In Texas, a Vote That Never Should Have Happened

Victor Carrillo, a member of the Texas Railroad Commission, offered a provocative explanation for his loss in a Republican primary on Tuesday. From the Dallas ...
by | March 5, 2010

Victor Carrillo, a member of the Texas Railroad Commission, offered a provocative explanation for his loss in a Republican primary on Tuesday. From the Dallas Morning News:

The chairman of the state Railroad Commission is blaming his overwhelming loss to an unknown challenger in Tuesday's Republican primary on GOP voters' bias against his Hispanic surname.

...

"Given the choice between 'Porter' and 'Carrillo' - unfortunately, the Hispanic surname was a serious setback from which I could never recover, although I did all in my power to overcome this built-in bias," Carrillo wrote.

Porter's upset victory was stunning to political observers. Carrillo had gained several major GOP endorsements and had outspent Porter, a Giddings accountant who filed to run at the last minute, by about 20 to 1. And it raised questions about Republicans' efforts to draw in Hispanic voters, the fastest-growing segment of the electorate.

Some people, including Bush strategist Matt Dowd, say Carrillo is right. Others think he is wrong. I don't know who is right, but I do know one thing: This never would have happened if Texas didn't have an elected Railroad Commission.

Writing at the Daily Dish, Jonathan Bernstein  described what it was like voting in Texas on Tuesday :

Yesterday was election day in Texas, and I voted.  And I voted.  And then I voted some more.  If my count was correct, I voted fifty-two times.  I voted for Governor, and I voted for U.S. House and Texas House and Texas Senate...OK, I didn't actually know the candidates for the state legislature, by I did feel a bit guilty about that.  I voted for Lt. Governor (which is a big deal here in Texas).  I voted for Attorney General, and Commissioner of the General Land Office, and Commissioner of Agriculture, and Railroad Commissioner.  I don't know what the General Land Office is, no.  I voted for judges -- judicial judges, and the county judge, who is the head of the county government, not a judicial judge at all.  I voted for more real judges.  We know someone who is running for "Judge, County Probate Court No. 2."  I voted for her.  I voted for District Clerk.  I don't know what kind of district the District Clerk is clerk for.  I'm pretty sure it's not pronounced the British way, though.  I voted for party chair...actually, Party Chairman, although I voted for a woman, but what do I know? 

Fifty-two times.

(Hat tip: Matt Yglesias)

I love elections, but when people have no idea who they're voting for or what the offices they're voting for do, that's probably a sign that a place has too many elected offices. With 52 votes in one day, even reasonably informed citizens are just going off of the endorsements of people or groups with which they tend to agree. Or, they're voting based on the name.

Plus, don't some of these jobs require technical expertise -- expertise that is easier to acquire through appointments than elections?

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
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