Elections department leaving straight-ticket voting issue ‘up to courts,' busy working 7 days a week, Callanen says

On Friday, federal judge blocked Texas Republicans' push to eliminate voting option

FILE - Voters wait in line at an early polling site in San Antonio, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – Days after a federal judge blocked the elimination of straight-ticket voting in Texas, the Bexar County Elections Administrator says the department is working around the clock in other areas ahead of the already-intense election.

Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen on Monday said the department will leave the matter over straight-ticket voting “to the courts to make the final decision, as we focus on the upcoming election.”

She added employees in the Bexar County elections Department are working daily, even on weekends, to handle an increase in voter registration applications, mail-in voting applications and questions from voters about the election.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo blocked the state’s repeal of straight-ticket voting, which allows Texans to choose a party’s entire list of candidates on the ballot.

While Texas has remained a state that offers the option for decades, Texas Republicans sought to kill it before the November election, saying it discourages voters from casting better-informed ballots.

Most states don’t offer straight-ticket voting, but Texas Democrats have said it helps eliminate wait time at the polls, especially for Black and Hispanic voters in big urban counties who are choosing from longer ballots.

Marmolejo said amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 15,000 lives in Texas, the state should not risk making voting a longer process.

“Texas' rules around voting during the pandemic have been perplexing,” Garcia Marmolejo wrote. “Administering in-person voting the same way it has been administered for 100 years is not about a mere convenience to voters, it is about running an efficient electoral process that guarantees Texans a more effective opportunity to cast a ballot in a time when any additional time spent in line endangers the safety of poll voters, poll workers, and others not at the polls.”

Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement after the ruling, saying his office has filed a motion to stop the federal judge’s order.

“I am disappointed that the Court departed from its prior reasoning and imposed straight ticket voting only weeks before a general election,” Paxton said in a statement. “My office has filed a motion to stay the district court’s injunction. In addition, my office will file an immediate appeal of the district court’s ruling in order to defend the integrity of Texas’s electoral process and a practice used in 43 other states.”

Early voting starts on Oct. 13 and runs through Oct. 30, and Election Day is set for Nov. 3. The deadline to register to vote is next week, on Oct. 5.

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Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.