Postponed runoff elections finally take place July 14

PRESIDIO COUNTY – Election day for Democratic and Republican runoff candidates is finally arriving Tuesday, July 14, after being postponed from May 26 due to coronavirus concerns. But nearly two months after the original voting day, the novel virus is circulating more than ever, with Texas just this week surpassing 10,000 new cases in a day for the first time.

Local election officials are having to set up precautions to hopefully prevent any spread of COVID-19 at the polls. County election clerk Florcita Zubia says poll workers are wearing masks and were provided face shields in Marfa and Presidio.

“We have hand sanitizer. We have masks for the public just in case someone goes in without one, we offer them to see if they want to wear one and usually people are really good and put one on,” Zubia said.

In the statewide mask order issued by Governor Greg Abbott last week, there is a carve out that exempts “any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election,” from wearing masks, but adds that “wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged.”

Early voting for primary runoffs has been “super slow” so far, according to Zubia. “Runoff elections are always slow anyway,” she said, “but things are probably worse because of COVID.”

So far, Zubia said those who have turned out to vote in Presidio County have been “very respectful.”

Voting early may be the best way to cast a vote while keeping six feet of distance from fellow voters, other than voting by mail. But that is limited to those over 65 and those who have “a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health,” Texas election code says.

On the Democratic ballot, Mary “MJ” Hegar and Royce West top the ticket, in a race to face Republican incumbent John Cornyn for a U.S. Senate seat. Also on the Democratic ballot are Roberto R. “Beto” Alonzo and Chrysta Castañeda, vying for a chance to join the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates energy industries in Texas.

The Republican ballot’s only race is between Tony Gonzales, endorsed by Representative Will Hurd and President Donald Trump, and Raul Reyes, endorsed by Senator Ted Cruz. The pair face off for the chance to challenge Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones in the general election for the U.S. House of Representatives’ District 23 seat.

Voting is at the USO Building at 302 S Highland Avenue in Marfa and the County Annex Building C at 300 East O’Reilly Street in Presidio. Early voting runs now through July 10, with polls open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Election day on July 14.