The Cues Voters Use to Elect Unknown Candidates

Ever heard of Elsa Alcala?

She’s one of the nine judges on the state’s highest criminal court, which literally decides matters of life and death. And she’ll be on the Republican ballot in March. But most Texans won’t see her name until they walk into the booth next year and decide her future.

Voters choose dozens of important state officials in every election without knowing a thing about them. So they rely on other cues — like political affiliations, pleasing names and who knows what else — to elect judges, legislators and other down-ballot officials.

Stephen Mansfield, a Republican, was ...

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