Federal appeals court judge halts reinstatement of straight-ticket voting in Texas

A temporary hold has been placed on the reinstatement of straight-ticket voting in Texas by judges on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. On Monday the hold was placed on a ruling last week by a lower court. The court will weigh the arguments more thoroughly and issue a final ruling.

Just three days ago I wrote about the Texas Democrats’ latest last-minute power grab. Late last Friday U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo ruled against legislation passed during the 2017 state legislative session that eliminated straight-ticket voting. The judge’s ruling was full of convoluted reasoning that, frankly, insulted voters. Her ruling implied that Democrat voters are too stupid to vote for individual candidates and must depend on straight-ticket voting.

It isn’t a surprise that on Saturday Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an appeal and motion to stay on Judge Marmolejo’s ruling. In-person early voting begins on October 13 in Texas, in less than three weeks. Ballots are in the mail for those requesting to vote by mail. Some eager voters have already returned their ballots. Re-implementation of straight-ticket voting will require reprinting ballots and re-calibrating voting machines across the state. Judge Marmolejo also argued that the risk to Texas voters to be exposed to the coronavirus during long wait times to vote is an unnecessary risk. Straight-ticket voting is faster than going through a ballot and voting in each race, she reasoned, and voters will be harmed by that. This is malarkey, of course. If people can go to the grocery store or other brick and mortar retail stores, they can vote in person. The case was brought by the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans and Democratic groups.

The three-judge panel for the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals set quick deadlines for both sides to submit arguments. Election officials have been left to scramble to keep up with various lawsuits that have been in play during the lead up to the November general election. Democrats love creating chaos and think this benefits their goal of turning Texas into a blue state.

Bexar County Election Administrator Jacque Callanen told the Houston Chronicle last week that changing plans this close to the first day of early voting Oct. 13 was “unbelievable.”

“For us right now to have to stop what we’re doing and reprogram and retest, and with the early start of early voting — oh my God,” Callanen said. “I can’t say we won’t do it, but it’s going to take everything in us, and we’re going to have to throw as many people at it as we can.”

Straight-ticket voting is a popular option, generally more so among Democrats in Texas’ 10 largest counties. In the 2018 general election, about two-thirds of Texas voters used the straight-ticket option.

The option makes a particularly meaningful difference in places like Houston, where there may be dozens of local judges on the ballot for voters to select among after they decide on candidates for major federal and statewide offices. Without straight-ticket voting, both Republican and Democratic operatives fear that some of their voters may leave their polling places without making it to the end of their ballots.

Operatives from both parties are busy reminding voters to go all the way down the ballot when they vote so that other important races, other than the ones at the top of the ballot, are not ignored. It’s true that ballots are notoriously long in places like Harris County (Houston). Some voters don’t pay much attention to down-ballot races, especially for judges and county offices, for example, and just leave them blank. The battle over voting in the 2020 general election continues in Texas. It’s going right down to the wire.