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Coronavirus Leaves Texas Politics in Uncharted Waters

On Tuesday, maybe for the last time in a long time, Americans voted. Florida, Arizona and Illinois residents cast their ballots as their state governments did the best they can to keep voters and poll workers safe. In Ohio, which also had a primary scheduled for Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine invoked emergency powers and postponed his state's election until June 2.

The state of Texas' next elections are still up in the air. Texans are still, as of Tuesday afternoon, slated to go to the polls twice in May, first on May 2 for municipal elections and then again the day after Memorial Day, May 26, for the state's primary runoffs.

As things stand, voting seems impossible.
As things stand, voting seems impossible.
Keith Allison

Both candidates in the biggest of those runoffs — the skirmish between MJ Hegar and Royce West for Texas' Democratic U.S. Senate nomination — have shut down the in-person portions of their campaigns, instead focusing on virtual efforts.

"Over the last week, our campaign has converted to a 100% virtual and digital operations," West said in a statement. "We have established protocols for both staff and volunteers to be able to work virtually out of concern for their health and safety. My No. 1 priority during this time is public health. We must all do what we can to stop the spread of this disease."

Sen. John Cornyn, the man Hegar and West are fighting to take on, wrote in an email to supporters Tuesday that he is suspending all campaign activities, according to the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek. 

Democrats and progressives across the state want Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to allow all Texans who want to do so to vote by mail in May's elections. Texas law allows mail-in voting only for those who will be out of the state during an election or who are physically unable to vote in person.

“Under the current and projected conditions involving COVID-19, it does not seem viable for Texas to hold meaningful elections in May. All eligible voters will not be able to participate in those elections with polling place-based voting. An all-mail election, in which county election officials mail a ballot to every registered voter, is the only option that guarantees Texans' right to vote while also protecting public health," Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said.

“The Texas Democratic Party calls for the Governor to immediately declare all mail-in ballot elections for May 2 and May 26. This goes beyond party or politics, this is a matter of right and wrong. The Secretary of State's office must act before it's too late. Time is of the essence.”

Abbott has already delayed an Austin-area Texas Senate election scheduled for May 2 until July 14. He told reporters Tuesday that he'll make a decision shortly about the municipal elections — Abbott noted that he doesn't know if he has the authority to move local elections — and the runoff, according to Svitek.

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