LAREDO, Texas (CN) — The hours-long lines some Texans endured at the polls on Super Tuesday will be worse come November because a Republican-backed bill is set to nix straight-ticket voting, the Texas Democratic Party says in a federal lawsuit seeking to block the bill.
The Democrats say in the lawsuit that Texas’ longest polling-place lines are in its most populous counties, which have large concentrations of Democratic-leaning black and Latino voters.
The biggest counties also have the longest ballots, with voters wading through dozens of candidates, exacerbated by the fact Texas is one of a handful of states that selects judges in partisan elections.
For years, Texans could complete their civic duty in minutes by stepping into the voting booth and clicking one box to vote for all the Democratic or Republican candidates on the ticket — and millions of Texans chose that option.
“During Texas’s 2018 general election, approximately two-thirds of voters — more than 5.6 million Texans — cast their votes using STV [straight-ticket voting],” the lawsuit states. (Emphasis in original.)
But in 2017 the Republican-led Legislature passed House Bill 25 along party lines to end straight-ticket voting on Sept. 1, 2020 and Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed it into law.
Texas Democrats brought a federal complaint Thursday against Secretary of State Ruth Hughs in Laredo, seeking an injunction to stop House Bill 25 from going on the books.
The party says in the lawsuit that HB 25 is a “recipe for disaster,” especially after Super Tuesday saw voters waiting more than two hours in Houston and Dallas to get to voting booths.
In Harris County, the state’s largest by population, one man waited more than six hours in line at Houston's historically black Texas Southern University and finally submitted his ballot at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to ABC-TV.
No Democratic presidential candidate has carried Texas since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
But former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s record fundraising and narrow loss in his 2018 bid to unseat Senator Ted Cruz, and Democrats’ defeat in 2018 of two Republicans who had held their U.S. House seats for decades, show the Republican stranglehold on the state may be loosening.
Thursday’s lawsuit was the fourth time the Texas Democratic Party has sued Hughs in federal court since last October, each time claiming that Republicans are trying to suppress Democratic turnout.
The Democrats said in an Oct. 30 lawsuit that Republicans passed a law barring county election officials from opening early voting sites with flexible hours and days, with the goal of eliminating polling sites on college campuses because students tend to vote for Democratic candidates.
In November they sued over the Ballot Order Statue, which they say gives an advantage to Republicans because it mandates the names of candidates of the same political party as the last-elected governor be listed above their opponents’ names for each partisan matchup on general election ballots.
Theysued Hughs again in January after the state rejected more than 2,400 voter registration applications because they did not contain the applicants’ handwritten signatures. Vote.org had submitted the applications with photos of the signatures.
Attorneys from Perkins Coie in Dallas are representing the Democrats in all three legal challenges.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said HB 25 is another Republican ploy to hold onto power in the Lone Star State.
“The end of straight-ticket voting was yet another Republican attempt to suppress the vote, alter the electorate, and take away power from the rising Texas majority,” he said in a statement.
The Texas Democratic Party seeks a declaration that HB 25 violates the First, 14th and 15th Amendments and the Voting Rights Act, and an injunction to keep straight-ticket voting in place for the November election.
Hughs’ office did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which spend millions advocating for people to vote for Democrats in federal elections, are also plaintiffs.Follow @cam_langford
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