In a victory for Democrats, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo has upheld the practice of straight-ticket voting in the state of Texas, which has used the process for some time but was set to hold elections without the option in place this November. An option for straight-ticket voting means that there’s a place at the top of ballots that voters can check (or otherwise mark) in order to offer their support for every candidate of a particular political party, and this option can actually have a significant impact at the polls. Harris County (which is where Houston is) can have pages-long ballots, so straight-ticket voting can make voting in-person more efficient.
Judge Marmolejo noted this issue in her ruling. She said that removing the option of straight-ticket voting would “cause irreparable injury” to voters via “creating mass lines at the polls and increasing the amount of time voters are exposed to COVID-19.” Marmolejo added that removing straight-ticket voting would “impose a discriminatory burden” on marginalized communities including black and Hispanic voters and “create comparatively less opportunities for these voters to participate in the political process.” Long lines could emerge at urban polling places with the elimination of straight-ticket voting, which could make voters have to spend significantly more time with each ballot. These lines could deter voters.
The Texas Association for Retired Americans was among the plantiffs in the lawsuit; elderly Americans have been among those most majorly impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. Republicans had advocated for the elimination of straight-ticket voting during the 2017 state legislative session, while Democrats had been among those recently challenging the planned removal of straight-ticket voting in court. As The Texas Tribune explains, Democrats “fear the change [would] be most felt among voters of color and lead to voter drop-off, particularly in blue urban counties that have the longest ballots in the state.”
After Judge Marmolejo upheld straight-ticket voting — with just weeks to go until the beginning of early voting in the state — Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa commented:
‘Time and time again Republican leadership has tried to make it harder to vote and time and time again federal courts strike it down. Texas Democrats will have to continue to win at the ballot box to protect the right vote. Until the new Texas majority wipes out these out-of-touch Republicans, Texas Democrats will never stop fighting for Texans in court.’
Republicans have consistently been fighting against voting rights across the country. On the national level, President Trump has been ranting about supposed widespread “fraud” accompanying the widespread usage of “mail-in” and/or “universal mail-in” voting. His claims are baseless.