Voters will have to make a choice in each race, which may lead to longer lines and undervoting
Dear Voter: Your Nov. 3 general election ballot has a lot of judicial races down ballot.
Whether you vote early in person, by mail, or in a polling place on Election Day, you will have to tick off your choice for each contest from the presidential contest to local races.
There will be no option to choose one party’s slate of candidates.
No more straight-ticket voting.
In the 2020 general election, which is already under way, there’s no D or R default (or convenience) for Texans.
That means completing ballots will take many voters longer than usual. Maybe.
Democratic and Republican observers are concerned that interest in high-profile races but not those down ballot will result in undervotes – meaning there was an option to make a choice, but no candidate was selected.
A 2017 state law ended the one-punch practice starting with the 2020 presidential contest. Opponents, including Democratic groups, sued in March after experiencing long lines during Super Tuesday, in a last-ditch effort to reinstate straight-ticket voting.
On Sept. 25, a federal judge in Laredo blocked Texas from enforcing the new law citing the extra time needed to fill out ballots, which could lead to longer lines at polling places and greater risk of exposure to the coronavirus for voters and poll workers.
Last week, a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel – deciding that the district judge waited too long to act on a law passed three years ago and effective this year – blocked the lower-court ruling because early voting then loomed in less than two weeks.
The legal kerfuffle was potentially chaotic for many reasons, not least of which was the reality that thousands of mail ballots already had been cast without the one-punch default.
In the 2018 general election, about two-thirds of Texas voters used the straight-ticket option, according to the Texas Tribune.
Democratic straight-ticket voters are credited with the “Blue Wave” that washed over Harris County in 2018, lifting political unknown Lina Hidalgo above Ed Emmett in the race for Harris County Judge and installing the African American female judges who became known as the “Black Girl Magic” history-making class of jurists.
Most states do not have a straight-ticket option, but it has been most popular with Black voters and Democrats in the 10 largest counties in Texas.
“Research shows that African Americans are more likely to use one-punch straight ticket voting,” according to a report by the Dallas Morning News.
The voting rolls were set this week, as Oct. 5 was the last day to register to vote in Texas.
Early voting in person begins next week on Tuesday, Oct. 13. The last day to apply for a mail ballot is Oct. 23.