Texans head to the polls amid spike in Covid-19 cases
Early voting for Texas’ primary runoff began 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.
DeBeauvoir’s 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 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 3 election, in that we had a bunch of no-shows,” she said.
Since 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 who are over 65, out of town, in jail and not convicted, or disabled.
Gov. Greg Abbott has said he does not believe in-person voting will lead to more Covid-19 cases because he has extended early voting, which he says will mean fewer lines at the polls.
DeBeauvoir expects a large turnout this election because her office has already seen a historic number of requests for mail-in ballots. She does not believe a longer early voting period means that fewer people will become infected with the deadly virus.
“I don’t think that that is as 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. Her best advice 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 4 in observance of the Independence Day holiday.
Find out which candidates are on the ballot in Central Texas.
This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.
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