A judge’s ruling on Friday blocking Texas from eliminating straight-ticket voting could figure prominently ahead of the 2020 presidential election in November.
In handing down her decision, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo cited an ongoing reach of the coronavirus as the crux of her ruling. Republican-led state government officials have long sought to ban straight-ticket voting in Texas to ensure more varied ballot casting. Conservative lawmakers in 2017 passed the House Bill 25 legislation barring straight-ticket voting, but an amendment prevented the measure from taking effect until Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law this year.
The specter of the coronavirus — and attendant concerns over the need for physical distancing in an effort to blunt the spread of illness — loomed large in Marmolejo’s decision to block the law a little over a month before the consequential presidential election on Nov. 3.
“Forcing Texas voters to stand in longer lines and increasing their exposure to a deadly virus burdens the right to vote,” Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo wrote in her decision. The judge cited the efficiency of straight-ticket voting — an option that has been in place for voters for a century — that is at a premium given the ongoing risk of respiratory illness as people congregate. Forcing constituents to painstakingly vote for each individual candidate on the ballot potentially “…endangers the safety of voters, poll workers and others not at the polls,” the judge wrote.
Attorney General Ken Paxton expressed disappointment in the ruling one day after the judge’s decision was handed down. In a prepared statement on Saturday, Paxton vowed to appeal the judge’s decision.
“I am disappointed that the court departed from its prior reasoning and imposed straight ticket voting only weeks before a general election,” Paxton wrote in a prepared statement. “My office has filed a motion to stay the district court’s injunction. In addition, my office will file an immediate appeal of the district court’s ruling in order to defend the integrity of Texas’s electoral process and a practice used in 43 other states.”
Unlike Texas, most states do not allow for straight-ticket voting.