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Election Day Arrives

The polls are open this morning for the Primary Runoff Election.

Voters will choose party candidates in the U.S. Senate race. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Solicitor General Ted Cruz have been in a bitter struggle to be the Republican nominee. Former state Representative Paul Sadler and Grady Yarbrough, a retired educator, are in a runoff for the Democratic nomination.

Across the state, several U.S. congressional district seats, one state senate seat, several state representative seats and a spot on the Texas Supreme Court are also in the mix.

The controversial Voter ID Law that passed last year in the Texas State Legislature is going before a federal court. The trial begins today to determine if Texas can implement the law, which requires voters to show government-issued photo identification.

The state says the law will prevent voter fraud. The Justice Department worries it will disenfranchise Hispanic voters and claims it violates the federal Voting Rights Act.  A disproportionate number of minorities in Texas lack the necessary identification, which would prevent them from voting. Texas will have to persuade a three-judge panel of the law’s legality.

The Mexican American Legislative Caucus says during the 2008 and 2010 elections there was only one case of voter fraud in over 13 million ballots cast.

Photo by KUT News

At its meeting today, the Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously approved the use of vote centers for the November 2012 Presidential election.

Vote centers, or countywide polling places, give people the option to vote at any polling location in the county.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says that vote centers are more convenient than traditional precincts and eliminate some confusion. She says that’s especially true considering that without the vote centers, the county would be required to add about 30 new polling locations for the November election because of redistricting.  

Image courtesy Travis County

Austin’s Mayoral and City Council elections are just about a month away – and if you haven’t registered to vote, time is running out.

The last day to register to vote in Austin's May contests is this Thursday, April 12. You can find the voter registration form here, along with instructions where to mail the form. To register in person, visit the Travis County Clerk’s office, located at 5501 Airport Boulevard.

To check your registration status and verify that it’s current, click here. Need to make updates to your voter registration? Check out this page for more information.

Photo by KUT News

Texas Challenges Voting Rights Act

Texas is challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act that requires the state to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department for any change to voting procedures. Yesterday Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed that petition to a three-judge panel in Washington.

The roiling legal battles over election laws passed in various states have potentially far-reaching consequences: the fate of a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The landmark legislation requires the Justice Department to "pre-clear" any changes to election laws in some or all parts of 16 states, mostly in the South, because of their histories of racially discriminatory voting practices. The Justice Department recently used the mandate to block a voter identification law in South Carolina on grounds that it would harm minority voter turnout.

picture by KUT

UPDATE, 1:50 p.m.:  A point of order on Voter ID bill has been sustained. The bill is headed back to committee for a clean-up. The language in the bill said "Days"; the bill's analysis said "Business Days," so the bill was sent back to clarify the discrepancy.

Texas State Capitol Building
Image courtesy Dave Wilson Photography

Texas is one of sixteen states that offers voters the option of simply checking a box for a political party at the ballot box, forgoing the task of individually voting for each candidate. The practice is called "straight-ticket voting" or "straight-party voting" and Republican State Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) doesn't like it.