What's in, what's out for November election
Remember, early voting is Oct. 23-May 3
By CHRIS FORBRICH
Several legal questions remain unanswered as the Nov. 7 state constitutional amendment election draws near and the March 6 party primaries follow. But a couple of procedural questions do have answers.
Rumors flew around for a month this summer about a possible new congressional district in San Antonio after a panel of judges from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled that two congressional districts were drawn to disenfranchise minority voters.
People are going to have to have to keep waiting for a definitive answer.
In a 5-4 decision in mid-September, the Supreme Court stayed the lower court’s mid-August ruling to redraw the lines.
District 35, held by Democrat Lloyd Doggett and which stretches from Austin to San Antonio; and District 27, held by Republican Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi; were recently stopped from being redrawn. District 23, which runs from El Paso to San Antonio and is held by Will Hurd, was originally also considered discriminatorily drawn, but the district court ruled that the map had been modified adequately.
The Supreme Court said the decision about redistricting should not be rushed and will not be dealt with at least until the next court session opens in October. More often than not, the decision on a complicated case like this comes much later.
Since the state says it needs to know now if there will be new maps and if so, what they will look like, to use them for the 2018 elections, it’s almost certain the current maps will be in use in the 2018 elections.
May I see your ID, por favor?
Perhaps the most confusing issue is Voter ID. In 2016 a settlement was reached between the state and several minority groups that led to registered voters who had not been able to obtain the allowed photo IDs being allowed to vote after signing a “reasonable impediment declaration” at the polls and showing an alternative ID.
This year’s Legislature passed SB 5, a law almost identical except that it included criminal penalties for lying about having an ID or being unable to get one.
In July, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued a permanent injunction against the law. In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a 2 to 1 decision that stayed the injunction.
As it stands now, the decisions do not affect the November election, because the law is not set to go into effect until January.
The revised Voter ID procedures (SB 5) will be used for the 2018 elections unless the full Circuit Court rules otherwise
The Voter ID law that was in effect for the presidential election, which allowed registered voters who could not reasonably obtain one of the required IDs to show alternate ID and sign an affidavit, will be in effect for the November election.
or the case is appealed to the Supreme Court, which would further delay a decision.
A problem that affects fewer people but is not less important deals with interpreters at the polls. Most people who need assistance, such as those with physical disabilities, are allowed by state law to call upon almost anyone except their employer or union agent. But people with insufficient English skills were required to use a person registered to vote in the same county. In August, after a court found that in violation of the Voting Rights Act, the law was changed so that people assisting with language issues meet the same requirements as other assistants.
Now, about the election
It’s all about the Texas constitutional amendments for most voters, but depending on where you live, there might be another one or two things on the ballot. Converse, Schertz, Leon Valley and Windcrest are having municipal elections, and a few other entities are having votes, too.
The sample ballot on the Bexar County Elections Department website, https://www.bexar.org/1568/Elections-Department, has everything on it. Of course, the ballot you see on your voting machine will have only the races you are eligible to vote in.
The Voter ID procedure will be the same one that was operating in the presidential election last year.