EAST TEXAS — Early voting started on Monday and will run through July 10. The primaries were originally scheduled for May, but Governor Abbott delayed them until July because of the coronavirus. Abbott also doubled the length of the early voting period for the July primary runoff elections in a move to aimed at easing crowds at the polls during the pandemic. According to our news partner KETK, on July 14, Texas will hold its 2020 runoff elections to decide the final spots for Democrats and Republicans on the November general election ballot. There are 35 congressional, legislative and state board nominations up for grabs.
Local voting officials have stocked up on sanitizer and protective gear while also considering plastic shields for check-in stations at polling places. The state has also recommended that they place markings on the floor to help people maintain social distancing in lines and place voting booths at least 6 feet apart.
Texas has open primaries, meaning you don’t have to be a registered member of either party to cast a ballot in a primary runoff. But you can only vote in one party’s primary, and which one might depend on how you voted in the first round of the primaries in March. People who voted in the March 3 primary are only able to vote in that same party’s runoff election, as they have affiliated themselves with that given party for that calendar year. Those who did not participate in the March primary are able to vote in either primary runoff election.
The pandemic has stirred a legal fight over mail-in voting in Texas. Democrats sued the state hoping to expand voting by mail as a safer alternative to in-person voting during the pandemic, but the Texas Supreme Court ruled in late May that a lack of immunity to the coronavirus alone does not qualify a voter to apply for a mail-in ballot.
Texas voters can qualify for mail-in ballots if they are 65 years or older, have a disability or an illness, are confined in jail, according to the Texas secretary of state’s office. Those who will not be in the county where they registered on election day and throughout the early voting period also have the option to request a ballot by mail.