Early voting starts Monday, marking 1st time polls have been open in Texas during COVID-19 pandemic

Starting Monday, Texans can hit the polls for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, as early voting for the July 14 runoff starts.

One of the key races is Dallas area State Senator Royce West facing off against military veteran MJ Hegar for U.S. Senate.

Going to the polls will look different this time because the secretary of state is urging everyone to wear face coverings and sanitize their hands before casting their ballot.

As coronavirus cases continue to surge in North Texas, people will head to the polls this week to vote on multiple runoff races.

[REPORTER: Do you think it will have an impact on voting itself or do you think more people will early vote to avoid large crowds?]

“I would expect more people will want to early vote so they can space themselves out and not be in a crowded polling situation, so it may increase early voting,” SMU political science professor Matthew Wilson said. “It may also overall decrease voter turnout. The fact that we have this pandemic raging may lead some people not to vote who may have otherwise.“

FILE - Privacy blinds set up on a table at the Minneapolis Early Vote Center on January 17, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Governor Greg Abbott extended the early voting period for the July 14 runoff because of the coronavirus.

Local and state leaders have urged people to bring their own writing utensil if it makes them feel more comfortable using their own tools to cast your ballot.

The secretary of state is also urging voters to sanitize their hands before voting.

Wilson said the runoff election will serve as a test model for the November election with covid-19 expected to still be spreading.

“Any problems that emerge with this problem will be a warning sign for the fall because vastly greater numbers of people will be voting in the fall and we are likely to still have some issues with the coronavirus come November. So this is a test run, hopefully for the state to correct any problems, bottlenecks that arise this time,” he said.

Wilson also weighed in on the race between Royce West and MJ Hegar.

“MJ Hegar certainly has the edge, she would be the favorite. She finished well ahead in the initial round of balloting, so all of that will point to her securing the nomination,” Wilson explained. “The best choice for Royce West is if we see a really energized African American electorate in the wake of the George Floyd incident and all of the protests from that. If there is really a much more race conscious African American turnout, I haven't seen dramatic indications that that's happening, but that would be his best bet to pull an upset here.”

A judge ruled people cannot use the coronavirus pandemic as a disability to vote by mail.

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Early voting starts Monday and runs until July 10, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The runoff election is July 14.