TexasEscapes.com HOME Welcome to Texas Escapes
A magazine written by Texas
Custom Search
New   |   Texas Towns   |   Ghost Towns   |   Counties   |   Trips   |   Features   |   Columns   |   Architecture   |   Images   |   Archives   |   Site Map

Counties
Texas Counties


Texas Towns
A - Z


Texas | Columns | All Things Historical

Party Primaries

The Terrell Election Law

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.

Cynics like to speak of "dirty politics" and "the smoke-filled room" atmosphere of party big shots making decisions on candidates clandestinely. That pretty well sums up the way political candidates were determined in East Texas and elsewhere in the state prior to 1905, when Alexander Watkins Terrell succeeded in getting the Terrell Election Law through the Texas legislature.

Previously, candidates in the Democratic and Republican parties were selected at county and state conventions. This system favored the few who could afford the leisure of a day-or several days-off from work to participate in the conventions themselves. The vast majority of voters then could endorse the work of the conventions at the polls or "go fishing."

Then a political movement known as Progressivism impacted both parties near the end of the nineteenth century and spilled over into the next century. Progressivism had positive and negative aspects, but its overall principles intended to improve society and empower ordinary folks. And one of those principles called for the participation of as many citizens as possible in the political process.

The Terrell Election Law attempted to take the selection of candidates away from "bosses" and empower ordinary citizens to run if they chose to do so. The technique was a party primary election, whether in the county, such as for sheriff, or statewide, such as governor. Anyone who wished to participate, (girls need not apply since the Nineteenth Amendment had not been adopted in 1905), could do so by registering with his party and paying a filing fee. This produced a good many plurality winners, since the number of candidates in each race was limited only by the number who registered and paid fees, sometimes just for the thrill of seeing their name on a ballot.

So in 1918 the legislature provided for a second primary that would insure that the ultimate winner would have a majority of votes cast, at least a majority of those cast in the runoff election. No matter how many candidates sought a particular office in the first primary, only the two candidates with the most votes participated in the second primary. While the primary system does provide those with an interest in elected politics the opportunity to participate, it does not insure victory for more qualified and competent office holders than did the old "smoke-filled" room method.


Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical
July 17, 2006 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.



Related Topics:
Texas Counties
Texas Towns A - Z



Books by Archie P. McDonald - Order Here

 


Texas Escapes Online Magazine »   Archive Issues » Home »
TEXAS TOWNS & COUNTIES TEXAS LANDMARKS & IMAGES TEXAS HISTORY & CULTURE TEXAS OUTDOORS MORE
Texas Counties
Texas Towns A-Z
Texas Ghost Towns

TEXAS REGIONS:
Central Texas North
Central Texas South
Texas Gulf Coast
Texas Panhandle
Texas Hill Country
East Texas
South Texas
West Texas

Courthouses
Jails
Churches
Schoolhouses
Bridges
Theaters
Depots
Rooms with a Past
Monuments
Statues

Gas Stations
Post Offices
Museums
Water Towers
Grain Elevators
Cotton Gins
Lodges
Stores
Banks

Vintage Photos
Historic Trees
Cemeteries
Old Neon
Ghost Signs
Signs
Murals
Gargoyles
Pitted Dates
Cornerstones
Then & Now

Columns: History/Opinion
Texas History
Small Town Sagas
Black History
WWII
Texas Centennial
Ghosts
People
Animals
Food
Music
Art

Books
Cotton
Texas Railroads

Texas Trips
Texas Drives
Texas State Parks
Texas Rivers
Texas Lakes
Texas Forts
Texas Trails
Texas Maps
USA
MEXICO
HOTELS

Site Map
About Us
Privacy Statement
Disclaimer
Contributors
Staff
Contact Us

 
Website Content Copyright Texas Escapes LLC. All Rights Reserved