Coronavirus fears postponed a Texas election. Now it will go forward with even greater risk for some voters.

Super Tuesday voting lines at the Metropolitan Multi Service Center near downtown Houston on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.      Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune
Super Tuesday voting lines at the Metropolitan Multi Service Center near downtown Houston on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

When the coronavirus threat was newer and seemed more immediate, Texas postponed its May elections to pick winners in several party primary runoffs, fearing the health risks of exposing voters and poll workers.

With those statewide elections about to take place, the health risks voters face are now arguably greater than when the runoffs were initially called off.

The virus appears to be in much wider circulation than the original May 26 runoff date, with the state coming off a full week of record highs for COVID-19 hospitalizations and several consecutive days of record highs for daily reported infections.

But voters won't be required to wear masks at polling places. Gov. Greg Abbott, who earlier expressed concerns about exposing Texans "to the risk of death" at crowded polling sites, has forbidden local governments from requiring people to wear them in public.

And Texas Republicans, led by state Attorney General Ken Paxton, have successfully fought off legal efforts by Democrats and some voters to let more people vote by mail if they are fearful of being exposed to the virus at polling places.

With early voting starting June 29 and election day July 14, voters are largely left on their own to balance exercising their right to vote against the health risks that come with going to the polls in a pandemic. Some fear endangering themselves, while others fear bringing the virus back into homes they share with immunocompromised loved ones. The runoffs are relatively small elections with low turnout expected — the marquee race is the Democratic showdown to see who will challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in November — but they'll prove an instructive test run for what Texas might face come November's high octane general election.

“I feel like by voting I'm risking my life. By not voting, I don’t know that I’m risking the state of the country in a primary,” said Monica Daucourt, a Dallas teacher. “How important is the primary is what I'm weighing.”

With a classroom full of high schoolers, Daucourt counts on falling ill every year. Typically, it's an annual bout of bronchitis, though pneumonia was the malady last November.