Two days are left to vote early in the ongoing runoff elections; the general vote is Tuesday, July 14. Everyone who can vote, but hasn’t, is encouraged to do so.
County election officials say earlyvote turnout has been moderate. That could be considered good news, as many voters surely are still concerned about unnecessary public interaction in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic, which struck just as Texas and other states were holding their party primaries, delayed runoff elections until this month. Such interruptions can affect voter turnout in addition to public health concerns.
Unfortunately, efforts to allow more people to vote by mail were unsuccessful. State law allows mail-in balloting for people who are elderly, sick, disabled or who plan to be out of their voting district on Election Day. Elections administrators in several counties, including Cameron County, announced that they would expand mail-in voting privileges to all registered voters because of the risk of contracting the potentially lethal coronavirus. State Attorney General Ken Paxton, however, negated those allowances, saying they violated the law.
Lawsuits ensued, and a federal appeals court upheld Paxton’s contention.
Election officials have adjusted to the public health risks; they are doing all they can to make the process as safe as possible, with widely separated booths and entry and exit ways. Workers are using protective apparel as much as possible and handling ballots and other items as little as possible. At most if not all locations, markers and pens are disinfected after each use.
The current year is especially important, and not just because the office of president is on the ballot. We also will be choosing one of our two U.S. senators, one-third of the state Senate, and all U.S. and state House seats.
Most attention traditionally is focused on the presidency, and voter turnout usually is higher in presidential election years. Other, more local offices, however, are just as important and perhaps even more so.
Most of the regulations and ordinances that affect our daily lives — speed limits, use of electronic devices on the road, tax rates and dozens of other matters are decided by city, county and state elected officials.
So is the allocation of funding and services — including the use of federal funds. We need only look at variations in local pronouncements regarding the COVID-19 pandemic regarding business and school closures, curfews and other issues, as well as testing and other services that were provided, to see how important local officials can be.
More importantly, the people we send to the state Legislature this year will draw the congressional, state and other political boundaries after the 2020 Census numbers are released.
As we have seen in recent years, those boundaries can add strength to a political party, or isolate a party to the point of irrelevance, in key areas of the state.
There are many reasons to participate in the current elections. We urge all voters to take necessary precautions and cast their ballots.