Texas Governor Extends Early Voting Period for November Election

July 28, 2020by Nicole Cobler, Austin American-Statesman (TNS)
Voter Ed Martinez make his way to vote at Pflugerville ISD Rock Gym in the Election Day Primary Runoff on Tuesday , July 14, 2020. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday extended the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election by nearly a week in an effort to spread out voting at polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Early voting for the general election will begin on Oct. 13, rather than Oct. 19, and run through Oct. 30.

Abbott’s proclamation also allows those voting with a mail-in ballot to deliver their ballot to the early voting clerk’s office prior to Election Day.

“By extending the early voting period and expanding the period in which mail-in ballots can be hand-delivered, Texans will have greater flexibility to cast their ballots, while at the same time protecting themselves and others from COVID-19,” Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement Monday.

In March, Abbott delayed the statewide primary runoff election and an Austin-area special election to July 14 out of concern that the original May date would result in people congregating in confined spaces in ways that “would threaten the health and safety of many Texans.” He also ordered early voting to begin June 29 instead of July 6.

Voter turnout in a runoff election is often low, but despite the coronavirus concerns, turnout among Democrats broke records during the runoff, with nearly 1 million participating in the election.

Texas law only allows people who meet certain qualifications to apply for a ballot by mail: people over the age of 65, people who are disabled, people who will be out of the county on the day of an election and those in jail who are otherwise eligible to vote.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month rejected a request from the Texas Democratic Party to expand voting by mail to all voters during the coronavirus pandemic.

The court’s denial left mail-in voting for the runoff available only to those already eligible to vote by mail.

Following the court’s decision last month, Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said he remains hopeful that his party will make progress on its effort to expand mail-in voting before the general election in November.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said there would be 35 early voting locations in the county, and they will need to hire additional election workers to avoid the extra expense of overtime, and also need to find additional sites to replace schools, which presumably will not be available.

“It’s very difficult on recruiting sites and it’s very difficult on recruiting poll workers, but it’s great for voters,” she said.

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©2020 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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