Democrats lost another attempt to change Texas voting laws by using lawsuits instead of the legislature.

On Tuesday, a federal district court dismissed a suit filed by the Texas Democrat Party and other Democrats that sought to block a new state law eliminating “straight-ticket” voting.

Straight-ticket or “straight-party” voting allows voters to select all of a party’s candidates on the ballot with one mark. November 2020 will be the first Texas election without that option.

Democrats argued that House Bill 25, passed by the Texas Legislature in 2017 and set to take effect this September, will “confuse” minority voters who “on average have lower educational attainments,” among other claims.

“According to Plaintiffs, the enforcement of HB 25 will cause longer lines at polling-places, increased roll-off at polling-places, voter confusion at polling-places, and less turnout from Democratic-party voters at polling-places,” U.S. District Court Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo wrote in her dismissal.

Democrats claimed eliminating straight-party voting violates the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, alleging:

  • Long lines disparately impact minorities who “overwhelmingly” support the Democratic Party;
  • Minorities “have less ability to withstand long-polling place lines”;
  • Roll-off “occurs most commonly” among minorities given they have, “on average, lower educational attainment [as] compared to white Texans”;
  • Voters “who have relied on [the straight-ticket voting practice] for decades will now be forced to navigate a system with which they are unfamiliar,” which “will disparately impact minority voters” who “on average have lower educational attainments as a result of historical discrimination”; and
  • The predicted effects of HB 25 will disproportionately burden voters who support the Democratic Party, including minorities, which will “in turn” cause Democratic candidates to lose votes at polling places.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only six states currently allow straight-ticket voting.

The judge dismissed Democrats’ complaint due to lack of standing.

She found their claimed injuries “rest on numerous suppositions that are uncertain to occur” and said the plaintiffs failed to cite any case law to support the proposition that an injury may be “certainly impending”—a requirement for constitutional claims.

“I applaud the District Court for dismissing this lawsuit, which was based on nothing more than suppositions and hypotheticals,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement following the ruling. “Nothing is more vital to preserving our Constitution and the rule of law than the integrity of our voting process, and my office will do everything within its abilities to solidify trust in every election in the state of Texas.”

The judge dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning Democrats can try again to undermine the law after it takes effect.

Plaintiffs included the Texas Democrat Party, the federal Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the chair-elect of the Webb County Democrats, and a Democrat state House candidate.

Democrats are also attacking the state’s vote-by-mail laws in court.

Earlier this month, Texas Democrats dropped a losing state-court lawsuit filed with the League of Women Voters that would have forced Texas to allow everyone to vote by mail.

Democrats are still pursuing a federal court claim that Texas mail-voting limits are an unconstitutional age discrimination. An appeal is pending in the 5th Circuit, but last week Texas Democrats petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to expedite a ruling before November 2020.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.