Texans Head To The Polls Amid Spike In COVID-19 Cases
Early voting for Texas’ primary runoff begins Monday ahead of the July 14 election.
Local officials are urging voters to take extra precautions during in-person voting as COVID-19 cases have been rising in the state.
Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said her office has set up 20 early voting locations across the county – and 100 vote centers for Election Day. Like early voting locations, vote centers are open to all Travis County voters.
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DeBeauvoir said that her office has people standing by to help locations in case poll workers do not show up due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, as it happened the day of the March primaries.
“We have set up a plan B for a rescue crew in case we run into the same problem we had in the March 3rd election, in that we had a bunch of no-shows,” she said.
Because state leaders and the courts have not allowed Texas to expand its limited vote by mail program during the pandemic, a lot of voters are going to have to vote in person during the coming weeks.
Texas has one of the most restrictive ballot-by-mail programs in the country. It’s currently only open to people over 65, out of town, in jail and not convicted – or people who are disabled.
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Gov. Greg Abbott has said that he doesn’t think in-person voting will lead to more COVID-19 cases because he has extended early voting. He has said that will mean fewer lines at the polls.
DeBeauvoir says she expects a large turnout during this election because her office has already seen a historic number of requests for mail-in ballots. She also said she doesn’t think a longer early voting period means that fewer people will become infected with the deadly virus.
“I don’t think that that is as a successful an approach as we could have had,” she said. “Because simply allowing more time for exposure doesn’t do anything to stop the exposure.”
DeBeauvoir said voters should check polling places ahead of time because usual locations like grocery stores are not an option this time around. She said her best advices to voters is to be sure to bring a mask … and an umbrella.
“[At some locations,] we can’t let more than 10 people inside the polling place at a time,” DeBeauvoir said. “So you may briefly be outside waiting in the line — and you might be in the sun.”
Early voting for this election runs from Monday, June 29 to July 10.
The polls will be closed on July 3 and July 4 in observance of the Fourth of July holiday.
Find out which candidates are on the ballot in Central Texas here.
Clarification: A previous version of the story said no more than 10 people would be allowed inside a polling site at the same time. The number of people allowed in will depend on how big the space is.