Opinion/Commentary

Why Straight Ticket Is a Straitjacket

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Competence counts
by Charles M.R. Vethan and Joseph Colvin

Select and elect. The district court judges you elect this year will have a greater impact on your daily life than any other official you elect—even the president of the United States. Simply stated, these people preside over business disputes, family law issues, and criminal matters. No one expects to be in court, but the Harris County docket continues to increase, especially on the civil side. Chances are, if you are a business owner, a professional, or entrepreneur, you will have direct contact with the legal system now or sometime in the future.

What we are urging you to do is take a few minutes on Election Day to think about the candidates you vote for. It may be a lot simpler to pull a “straight ticket” lever, but voting is a privilege that patriots have died for. That lever is right there when you walk into the voting booth, reflecting the creeping apathy that prevents many from even making it to the voting booth. But you are not one of those people! You have made it to the booth, you have secluded yourself, and now you are preparing to exercise your right. Then it happens—you realize you only recognize the names in the top four or five positions. You make a quick assessment of all your values and press “R” or “D.” That decision to blindly vote for someone you know nothing about is perhaps worse than not voting at all.

When you get sued, arrested, or divorced, do you want someone presiding over your case that is competent or merely a member of your chosen party? A judge’s political views on certain social topics have little to do with the partnership disputes, battles between entrepreneurs, or usurped business opportunities by trusted employees and managers that a judge rules on daily.

Judicial competence presupposes that
a judge follows and applies the law equitably, regardless of his or her personal feelings or proclivities. Harris County, one of the largest litigation counties in the United States, is fortunate, for the most part, to have many judges who excel at what they do.

As attorneys who are frequent practitioners before the courts in Harris County, we cannot stress enough the importance of carefully evaluating your decision when choosing your candidates prior to casting your vote. There are individuals who have, in our opinion, been exemplary on the bench, or are very worthy candidates for the bench. Simply having a “D” or an “R” next to their name does not make them qualified candidates.

Judges must rise above partisan politics, and the two-party system should not prevent qualified individuals from attaining or maintaining their position because it is inconvenient for voters to research judicial candidates before voting.

This November, in the privacy of your voting booth, step back, escape your constraints, and make your vote truly count.  Get out of the straitjacket of partisan straight-ticket voting.

Charles M.R. Vethan and Joseph Colvin are attorneys with The Vethan Law Firm, P.C., in Houston. 

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