Early voting begins Monday for Democratic runoff

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. Across the state, there are 35 congressional, legislative and state board nominations up for grabs. 

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. 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.

So in Walker County, that means those who voted in the Republican Primary in March can not vote in the runoff.

What's different this year?

The primaries were originally scheduled for May, but Texas Gov. Greg 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 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.

What is being done to make the polls safe?

Any voter exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 when arriving at the polling location should consider utilizing curbside voting. Curbside voting is available during early voting and on Election Day for voters who cannot physically enter the polling place without injury or risk of injury.

“We ask that voters please reserve curbside voting for those individuals who truly require the service,” said county elections manager Julie Cooper. “Voters requiring curbside assistance should park in the designated curbside space and follow posted instructions for alerting the election official.”

Public health will be top priority during in person voting. It is expected that voters and election workers practice safe social distancing standards while in line and throughout the voting process. Hand sanitizer will be made available to voters entering and exiting the poll place. Election workers are required to sanitize hands between each voter and will be wearing protective face coverings while working.

Voters will be issued a disposable voting instrument and alcohol wipes for safe preparations of their voting environment. Please note that wipes provided at voter check-in are approved for use on the voting equipment specifically, use of personal wipes or disinfectants is prohibited near the electronic voting systems. Additionally, the voting area will undergo extended disinfecting procedures every two hours, at minimum.

What's on the ballot?

Walker County voters will have only two races to participate in.

A Democratic U.S. Senate runoff between retired Air Force pilot MJ Hegar and state Sen. Royce West of Dallas highlights the ballot. The winner will be an underdog in a quest to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

The only other runoff on the local ballot will include a race between Chrysta Castaneda and Roberto R. “Beto” Alonzo for the Democratic nod for Railroad Commissioner.

All voting within Walker County will be held at the Walker County Annex, located at 1301 Sam Houston Avenue, room 101. Voting hours are 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. each weekday, with no voting taking place on Friday, July 3 in honor of the Independence Day holiday.

Valeria Olivares with The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.