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Straight ticket voting reinstated (for now)

That was unexpected.

Less than three weeks before early voting begins in Texas, a U.S. district judge has blocked the state from eliminating straight-ticket voting as an option for people who go to the polls this November.

In a ruling issued late Friday, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo cited the coronavirus pandemic, saying the elimination of the voting practice would “cause irreparable injury” to voters “by creating mass lines at the polls and increasing the amount of time voters are exposed to COVID-19.”

Marmolejo also found that the GOP-backed law would “impose a discriminatory burden” on black and Hispanic voters and “create comparatively less opportunities for these voters to participate in the political process.”

She acknowledged the burden the decision could put on local and state election officials, who will have to recalibrate voting machines or reprint ballots. But she reasoned that the potential harm for those suing, including the Texas Association for Retired Americans, was “outweighed by the inconveniences resulting.”

[…]

The Texas Democratic Party joined other Democratic groups and candidates in suing the state in March to overturn the law, but Marmolejo dismissed the case. Another suit was then filed, but with the Texas Association for Retired Americans added as plaintiffs and the state party removed. Nonetheless, Democrats celebrated the judge’s order Friday.

“Time and time again Republican leadership has tried to make it harder to vote and time and time again federal courts strike it down,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement after the ruling. “Texas Democrats will have to continue to win at the ballot box to protect the right vote. Until the new Texas majority wipes out these out-of-touch Republicans, Texas Democrats will never stop fighting for Texans in court.”

See here and here for the background. This was a Democracy Docket case, and so they have a copy of the original complaint and the judge’s order. The complaint wasn’t any different the second time around, but the set of plaintiffs was. Beyond that, the main difference was the extent of the pandemic since the original case was dismissed in late June. The judge cites how much worse the spread of the virus has gotten, as well as the difficulties counties had running the primary runoffs in July – fewer voting locations, harder time getting poll workers – as justification for reversing her original dismissal. She also noted the extra time it takes to vote Texas’ long ballots; I’m guessing this opinion was written a few days ago, because that recent Harris County study was not cited.

I presume this will be appealed to the Fifth Circuit before the weekend is out, and I expect they will put a stay on the order pending whatever review they’re going to do. Or maybe not, I don’t know, we’re getting awfully close to “we really need to finalize the ballot and configure the voting machines” time. The judge also noted in the ruling that it would be less confusing to the voters to restore straight ticket voting at this late time than to not have it, since we have not had such an election yet. I think the real danger of confusion is having everyone talk about this ruling for a few days and then have it blocked by the appeals court, but that’s just me. For now, we’ll be voting like it’s 2018 again. For now. The Chron has more.

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10 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    You would think that by now absentee ballot printing has already commenced, so I see all this ruling, however long lived, as costing the taxpayers money to reprint ballots so they now have the straight ticket option.

    This ruling will definitely benefit the Democrats, as they are more likely TO be straight ticket voters. It will also eliminate the traditional undercount in lesser races, particularly judicial races, where voters might not ever even receive a mail out from any of the candidates for a particular race.

  2. David Fagan says:

    I thought everyone was voting by mail so there would be plenty of time to review the candidates and make a decision in the comfort of their covid free, socially distanced, quarantined home.

  3. Marc says:

    Ballots are already out. The Fifth Circuit will surely stay this and this will be a question for the next election.

  4. Jen says:

    Kuff’s previous analysis showed that more GOPers tend to vote on Election Day, when the longest lines will be, so if this ruling is blocked by conservatives they will mainly be screwing themselves. Once again.

  5. mollusk says:

    If I read the reporting correctly this only applies to in person voting, so nothing needs to be changed on the mail ballots (for which you can take all the time you wish in the privacy of your own home, office, or park bench without affecting other voters in any way)

  6. […] loss of straight ticket voting may turn out not to be a concern, but until the Fifth Circuit speaks, it’s too soon to say. Be that as it may, my first […]

  7. […] here for the background. This was of course completely expected, and if the Fifth Circuit doesn’t […]

  8. robert says:

    Yeah, Bill….Republicans don’t straight ticket vote. There could be a literal turd listed and as long there is an R next to their name, they get the R vote.

    You’re something else

  9. […] here and here for the background. This is what I expected, so I’m not surprised, just […]

  10. […] here and here for the background. I don’t agree that this ruling would have been disruptive of […]