Scroll through the 8 pages of the Democratic primary ballot, and you’ll see lots of names. Scroll through the Republican ballot, and you’ll also find five ballot propositions. They were chosen by the state Republican executive committee, made up of members elected from each district. This is Jared Woodfill, Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party:
“Essentially what they address are issues that are important to our base, things that we would like to see passed during the next legislative session. Even though it is not binding, it’s something that you can take the results during the next session and say to our elected officials, ‘This is where our base stands on voter ID or controlling the growth of government, or cutting federal income taxes.'”
Unlike propositions in the general election, they don’t directly affect legislation; they’re basically a poll of the primary base. The results might affect the party platform, but Woodfill says their main use is in convincing Republican legislators:
“It gives you the ammunition that you need to help get these things passed during the next legislative session. To go to a Republican and say, ‘Well 95% of Republican primary voters believe that we need to have photo ID.’ Well that speaks volumes to them.”
The propositions address voter ID, state budgets, federal taxes, the use of the word “God” and the Ten Commandments on public buildings, and requiring sonograms to be performed before “medically unnecessary” abortions.
The state Democratic party also has the option to place propositions on the primary ballot, but chooses not to. Harris County Democratic Chairman Gerry Birnberg says the extra questions waste time and money:
“Whatever’s on the ballot is completely unofficial, it has no significance, at all, for the Republicans or Democrats. It’s a meaningless waste of taxpayer money.”
Birnberg says the propositions basically reinforce positions that the Republican Party already knows their base supports, and that they mostly serve to attract “fringe” voters to the polls. The Democratic Party simply chooses to poll by other means.
“Do you think that there is any Republican in the legislature who is not in favor of voter ID? Of course they all are.”
Woodfill says that the propositions cover issues the party has been working on for years, and that conservative Republican members have chosen to place on the ballot. Both parties set their platforms at conventions later this year.