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Misunderstanding may lower vote-by-mail numbers

Thursday, July 2, 2020 by Jo Clifton

As if worries about the coronavirus were not enough, some Travis County voters inadvertently failed to ask for the correct ballot when applying to vote by mail. As a result, some voters will get a ballot only for the Texas Senate District 14 race, but not for the various runoffs, mostly in the Democratic primary.

People started complaining in various places, including on neighborhood listservs, thinking that there had been an error at the Travis County Clerk’s Office. But that is not the case, explained Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir. Voters who failed to check “Democratic Primary” received a ballot with the Senate race, but not the runoffs on it.

The solution, DeBeauvoir said, is for those voters to take that ballot to one of the early voting locations, hand it in, along with appropriate identification, and vote at that polling place. Voters are not likely to face a crowd at any of the locations because voting has been extremely light so far. Or the voters can do the same thing on election day, July 14.

There are only 20 early voting locations this time, compared to 34 locations in the run-up to the March primary. Because of the difficulty of social distancing inside such small spaces, Travis County can no longer use some of its most popular sites, such as Randalls.

On Monday, the first day of early voting, just 11,567 voters cast ballots in the Senate race, and on Tuesday only 6,688 voters cast ballots in that race, for a total of 18,255. That includes mail ballots received. The front-runners in that race are Democrats state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and former County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. Republicans Waller Thomas Burns and Don Zimmerman are also in the race, along with Libertarian Pat Dixon and independent Jeff Ridgeway.

In the primary runoff, Travis County Democrats had cast just 10,280 votes by the end of Tuesday, the second day of early voting. That includes some hotly contested races, such as the race between District Attorney Margaret Moore and challenger José Garza and between Assistant County Attorney Laurie Eiserloh and Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza for Travis County Attorney.

Judge Dimple Malhotra, who was appointed judge of County Court at Law No. 4 and is now running for a four-year term, was concerned enough about people not getting ballots for her contest that she sent out an email to supporters on Wednesday urging them to take their ballots to an early voting location if they did not receive the full ballot. Malhotra’s opponent is Margaret Chen Kercher. On the Republican side, just 1,896 ballots had been cast by the end of the day Tuesday. The most hotly contested race on that side is between Jennifer Fleck and Justin Berry for a spot on the November ballot against District 47 state Rep. Vikki Goodwin. Of course, only Republicans who live in that district can vote in that race.

In addition, Republicans may be interested in the race for a seat on the state Board of Education. As the Texas Tribune explained shortly after the March primary election, every Republican member of that board has endorsed Lani Popp, a speech pathologist. She is facing gadfly Robert Morrow, best known for racist and sexist remarks and for his brief and rocky tenure as chair of the Travis County Republican Party in 2016. The winner of this race will face Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau in November.

Early voting runs through July 10, but polling locations will be closed July 3 and 4. Voters may access a list of polling locations here.

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