On July 14, Texas will hold its 2020 runoff elections to decide the final spots for Democrats and Republicans on the November general election ballot. There are 35 congressional, legislative and state board nominations up for grabs. You can view the full ballot here and find polling locations here.
With early voting starting Monday, this is what you need to know.
Who can vote in the runoffs?
Texas has open primaries, meaning you don't have to be a registered member of either party to cast a ballot in a primary runoff. You can check your voter registration status here. But you can only vote in one party's primary, and which one might depend on how you voted in the first round of the primaries in March. People who voted in the March 3 primary are only able to vote in that same party's runoff election, as they have affiliated themselves with that given party for that calendar year. Those who did not participate in the March primary are able to vote in either primary runoff election.
Voting in Texas
When was the last day to register to vote?
The deadline to register to vote in the 2020 general election was Oct. 5. Check if you’re registered to vote here. If not, you’ll need to fill out and submit an application, which you can request here or download here.
When can I vote early?
Early voting for the 2020 general election runs from Oct. 13 to Oct. 30. Voters can cast ballots at any polling location in the county where they are registered to vote during early voting. Election Day is Nov. 3.
How will voting be different because of the pandemic?
In general, polling locations will have guidelines in place for social distancing and regular cleaning. Several counties will offer ballot marking devices so voters avoid contact with election equipment. Poll workers will likely be wearing face masks and other protective equipment, but masks will not be required for voters.
How do I know if I qualify to vote by mail?
Texas is one of just a few states that hasn’t opened up mail-in voting to any voter concerned about getting COVID-19 at a polling place. You can find eligibility requirements and review other questions about voting by mail here.
Are polling locations the same on Election Day as they are during early voting?
Not always. You’ll want to check for open polling locations with your local elections office before you head out to vote. Additionally, you can confirm with your county elections office whether Election Day voting is restricted to locations in your designated precinct or if you can cast a ballot at any polling place.
Can I still vote if I have COVID-19?
Yes. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are exhibiting symptoms, consider requesting an emergency mail-in ballot or using curbside voting. Contact your county elections office for more details about both options.
See our voter guide
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What's different this year?
The primaries were originally scheduled for May, but Abbott delayed them until July because of the coronavirus. Abbott also doubled the length of the early voting period for the July primary runoff elections in a move to aimed at easing crowds at the polls during the pandemic. Early voting runs from Monday through July 10.
"It is necessary to increase the number of days in which polling locations will be open during the early voting period, such that election officials can implement appropriate social distancing and safe hygiene practices," Abbott wrote in a May proclamation.
How did the coronavirus affect mail-in voting?
The pandemic has stirred a legal fight over mail-in voting in Texas. Democrats sued the state hoping to expand voting by mail as a safer alternative to in-person voting during the pandemic, but the Texas Supreme Court ruled in late May that a lack of immunity to the coronavirus alone does not qualify a voter to apply for a mail-in ballot.
“We agree with the State that a voter’s lack of immunity to COVID-19, without more, is not a ‘disability’ as defined by the Election Code,” the court wrote in May.
Texas voters can qualify for mail-in ballots if they are 65 years or older, have a disability or an illness, are confined in jail, according to the Texas secretary of state's office. Those who will not be in the county where they registered on election day and throughout the early voting period also have the option to request a ballot by mail
What is being done to make the polls safe?
State leaders have largely left it up to local officials to set up safety precautions, but the Texas secretary of state's office has some recommended guidelines for voters and county governments. The eight-page document suggests that voters bring their own hand sanitizer and wear face masks, bring their own marking devices — like pencils with erasers — and consider voting curbside if they have symptoms of COVID-19. (Voters unable to enter polling places are allowed to ask a poll worker to bring a ballot to their cars parked curbside. The state recommends that voters call ahead before requesting this option.)
Local voting officials have stocked up on sanitizer and protective gear while also considering plastic shields for check-in stations at polling places. The state has also recommended that they place markings on the floor to help people maintain social distancing in lines and place voting booths at least 6 feet apart.
What's on the ballot?
The stakes in the runoff races vary widely, from contests where the winner is likely destined to lose in November to races in which a victory in July will almost certainly mean a congressional seat in November. Here are some of highlights of statewide interest:
A Democratic U.S. Senate runoff between retired Air Force pilot MJ Hegar and state Sen. Royce West of Dallas. The winner will be an underdog in a quest to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
- Fifteen U.S. House runoffs. That includes a tense runoff in a heavily Republican Panhandle district featuring former agriculture expert and lobbyist Josh Winegarner and retired Navy rear admiral and former White House doctor Ronny Jackson. In another GOP race, former U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions will try to return to Congress in a new district, facing Waco businesswoman Renee Swann. Both parties are also trying to pick candidates in a handful of swing seats across the state.
- Republican state leaders are paying close attention to a State Board of Education runoff, hoping to help public school speech pathologist Lani Popp defeat Robert Morrow, a self-described performance artist known for his racist and sexist antics.
- Fourteen Texas House runoffs as Democrats and Republicans prepare to vie for control of the chamber in November.
Disclosure: The Texas secretary of state has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.