Court rulings put already printed ballots in question

Posted 9/29/20

A U.S. federal appeals court in Laredo put a temporary stay on a lower federal court’s decision from Friday ordering Texas to reinstate straight-ticket voting for the Nov. 3 election, a swiftly moving issue that leads Madison County officials waiting for word if they’ll have to print another round of ballots.

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Court rulings put already printed ballots in question

Posted

A U.S. federal appeals court in Laredo put a temporary stay on a lower federal court’s decision from Friday ordering Texas to reinstate straight-ticket voting for the Nov. 3 election, a swiftly moving issue that leads Madison County officials waiting for word if they’ll have to print another round of ballots.

Straight-ticket voting, which allows citizens to submit a wholly partisan ticket at the federal, state and local levels, was scheduled to end this year in Texas after it was abolished by the State Legislature in 2017. It is only allowed in six U.S. states.

U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo blocked the state’s decision to abolish the practice Friday, less than three weeks before the start of early voting and less than six weeks before election day.

Judge Marmolejo cited concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, stating the longer lines brought on by ending the practice at local polling venues would put voters in danger of the virus.

On Monday, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals put a temporary stay on Judge Marmolejo’s decision and set argument deadlines for both sides. The ultimate decision could result in local election entities having to reprint ballots or reconfigure voting machines. Many local governments have already had to do this.

No decision was made by Tuesday morning, and Madison County Election Administrator Janet Boone has not yet received instruction by the state regarding any changes to the current process.

“I have not had any official word,” said Boone Monday. “The Secretary of State said they would not comment until there is an actual decision, and I don’t have anything from them as of right now that anything has been decided or giving me direction as to what I am supposed to do.”

Boone already sent out ballots last week and some have already been completed and returned. If a straight-ticket option is ordered to be included, she would have to notify those individuals of the outdated statuses of their ballots and send them the updated version.

“It would be a little bit of a nightmare, but we will do whatever we are told to do,” said Boone. “It would be a big expense for the county, because the county pays the price for this election.”

The county would have to reprint and re-mail the ballots as well as reprogram machines.

Texas Democrats had already sued to fight the change in straight-party balloting in March during the primaries, arguing the longer wait times in urban areas disproportionately impacted Black and Latino citizens.

Many counties already had to reprint their ballots earlier this month when the Texas Supreme Court ordered three Green Party candidates to be added back to the November ballots after state Democrats successfully sued to have them removed in August.

Boone, however, avoided this reprint since she was able to wait longer to officially submit her ballots than other counties.

“I dodged that bullet,” said Boone. “I had just turned my order in 30 minutes before they came down with the decision, so I was able to call and say do not print anything. I have not had to have my ballots reprinted or my screens reprogrammed.”

The push to reinstate straight-ticket voting is one in a number of challenges brought forth by Texas Democrats regarding the Nov. 3 election. The Texas Supreme Court will soon determine if Harris County can send out mail-in voting applications to over two million registered voters.

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