Austin, Texas - The COVID-19 virus response is rapidly shutting down almost every aspect of public life for the near-term future. The League of Women Voters of Texas urges Governor Abbott to act quickly to preserve Texas elections. Local Elections are scheduled for April and the Primary Run-off Elections are scheduled for May.
"We have reached out to Governor Abbott and Secretary of State Hughes, as well as the members of the Texas Senate State Affairs and House Elections Committees, to propose steps to ensure the health and safety of Texas voters during the election process," stated Grace Chimene, League of Women Voters of Texas president and retired nurse practitioner.
The CDC already has a comprehensive game plan to conduct elections safely to avoid exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Election equipment manufacturers have contributed to the plan for keeping equipment safe and avoiding any interference in operations. Secretary of State Hughes has also shared guidelines, and is consulting with other state agencies to mitigate impacts on voting in the upcoming multiple elections.
In addition to offering safe physical polling places, the League suggests a number of actions to lessen the impact on individuals.
The League of Women Voters of Texas strongly urges Governor Abbott and Secretary of State Hughes to commit quickly to take the following actions:
- Strongly promote Ballot-by-Mail for any individual 65 or older, and all eligible citizens with disabilities that qualify them for a mail-in ballot. Election Code, Section 82.002 appears to permit a broad definition of disabilities, to include those most vulnerable to the virus.
- Promote early voting to lessen crowds and long lines on Election Day.
- Promote county expansion of the number of trained poll workers and election judges to cover absences, and therefore prevent closure of polling places. A creative statewide campaign to encourage individuals to respond to this need would be invaluable.
- Work closely with the Governor’s Office to assure availability of needed hygiene supplies to counties for conducting the election. Polling place hygiene is especially critical.
- Provide leadership to heavily promote voter registration by mail, and implement quickly-available voter registration through the State’s Texas.gov portal in this emergency.
- Collaborate closely with local election officials statewide to provide up-to-date polling site location information online and commit to posting any polling place changes on the SOS public-facing website VoteTexas.gov within 3 hours of those changes.
- Emphasize the need for accurate polling place wait time web postings on Election Day.
"It is the mission of the League to 'Empower Voters and Defend Democracy'" said Chimene. "We envision a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate, even during this community health crisis."