No straight-ticket voting in Texas for 2020 general election, court says

After another court ruling, Texans will need to be prepared to vote in individual races this election rather than the old method many voters are used to where they could vote a straight-party ticket with one click.

November’s elections are too close for Texas to make changes now and restore a straight-ticket voting option that was sought by Democrats, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Texas offered the options for decades, but Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law in 2017 that eliminated the option starting this fall.

A federal judge in Laredo said in a ruling last week that the pandemic should give Texas pause about longer lines at polling places. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that changes shouldn’t be made so close to the Nov. 3 elections, and with early voting starting in Texas in just two weeks.

Democrats had sued to restore straight-ticket voting in March, citing long Super Tuesday lines in Houston where some voters waited more than an hour to vote. They said the law disproportionately hurts Black and Latino voters in big urban counties, where ballots are typically longer and take more time to fill out.

With some down-ballot Republicans concerned independent voters could be turned off by President Donald Trump, SMU political scientist Matthew Wilson says the latest ruling could help.

“They are worried President Trump may be a drag in certain suburban districts,” Wilson said. “We should, in theory, expect more split-ticket voting when people have to go office by office.”

Wilson says Democrats and Republicans are split on which method is better for democracy.

Residents of El Paso, Texas cast their ballot for president of the United States in early voting, October 23, 2000.

“That is the Democratic argument. They say in every way you can, make things as easy, as painless and low effort as possible for the voter,” he said. “Republicans argue there is value in deliberation. If you are going to hold an office, at a minimum you should check a box by that person’s name.”

Now, both Democrats and Republicans are working to educate voters before they head to the polls. And they even agree on one thing.

“We have some mottos going for this election. And they are don’t stop at the top and vote for every Democrat,” said Carol Donovan, chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party.

“I have told people the further down-ballot you go, the closer to your kitchen and living room. Make sure you don’t just stop at the top,” said Rodney Anderson, chair of the Dallas County Republican Party.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said “last-minute changes to our voting process would do nothing but stir chaos.”

There could still be future rulings in this case if it is appealed to the full court or the U.S Supreme Court.

Texas had been one of only a handful of states to still have the one-click option.