Georgetown | October 2020

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ELECTION DAYVOTING

EARLY VOTING

PATH TO THE POLLS Local voters have three methods to cast votes in the November 2020 election.

MAIL-IN VOTING Eligible voters who are over the age of 65, confined in jail, expecting to be out of the county or disabled may vote using a mail-in ballot, if requested by Oct. 23. There are two ways to return a ballot received through the U.S. Postal Service: • Return the ballot via mail • Hand deliver the ballot to the Williamson County Elections Department at 301 SE Inner Loop, Georgetown

On Nov. 3, 57 polling places will open to Williamson County voters. Here are key points to keep in mind for Election Day voting: • Longer lines are likely due to social distancing requirements • Anyone in line by 7 p.m., when polls close, is able to cast a vote

• Vote at a convenient time and date between Oct. 13 and 30 • Avoid long lines on Election Day Williamson County residents can vote at any of 19 early voting locations. Benefits of early voting include:

SOURCES: TRAVIS COUNTY, WILLIAMSON COUNTY/ COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

PROTOCOL FOR THE POLLS

Many standard COVID-19 protocols, such as social distancing, are planned for area polls, plus some specifically geared toward voters:

FINGER COTS/ POPSICLE STICKS Will help voters avoid touching screens directly

BARRIERS Will separate

SANITIZING STATIONS

MASKS Will be offered to voters who do not have them; anyone entering the polling place will be asked to wear masks covering the mouth and nose

Williamson Election Administrator Chris Davis said as of Sept. 15 the county had pro- cessed 23,709 applications for bal- lot by mail—more than double the previous record-setting amount in November 2018. County With several weeks remaining before the Oct. 23 deadline to request a ballot, Davis said he anticipates a total of 40,000-50,000 applications. That represents 11%-14% of the county’s approximately 358,000 registered voters as of the July midterm elections. “We are certainly seeing the highest number of applications for ballot by mail that the county has ever seen in a given election,” Davis said. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said 100 million mail-in ballots are expected nationally, 100,000 of them from Travis County voters. That is around 12% of the county’s 828,644 registered voters as of the July 2020 midterm elections. In order to prepare for this influx and in-person voters’ health and safety, Davis and DeBeauvoir are expanding voting options through lesser-known angles of Texas’ legal code, including options such as drive- thru drop-offs, curbside voting and mail-in ballot tracking. Newpaths to the ballot box Williamson County resident Karen West has voted by mail for nearly a decade. At 74 years old, West said she finds voting by mail efficient and less physically burdensome. “I love it because it is convenient, and I have trouble standing in lines because I have arthritic knees that make it painful,” West said. In Texas, only certain voters can cast ballots via mail: those who are over the age of 65, confined to jail, expecting to be out of the county or

who have a disability. While Texas Democrats have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to allow all registered voters access to mail-in ballots during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Texas’ rules will likely be unchanged come November, according to a local elections expert, professor Brian Smith of the St. Edward’s University Political Science Department. “Texas has very restrictive mail-in voting requirements. Don’t assume that they’re going to be really relaxed anytime before Election Day,” Smith said. “Right now, being afraid of catching a virus isn’t enough for an absentee ballot.” The Texas Supreme Court determined in May that a voter’s lack of immunity from COVID-19 or concern about contracting the virus does not qualify as a disability under Texas’ election statute. However,

voters from poll workers, offering protection to both

Will be available at entrances and exits

For ongoing election coverage, see communityimpact.com/voter-guide.

the system allows registered voters who have requested a ballot by mail to track the status of their ballot: application processing, ballot en route to the voter, completed ballot received by the county and completed ballot accepted for counting by the Early Voting Ballot Board. “We’ve never really concerned ourselves with putting a self-service application on the website before, because the volume of inquiries and correspondence was manageable,” Davis said. “With so many folks applying for ballot by mail for the first time, we’re well past the manageable point now.” If Travis County mail-in voters are concerned about the Postal Service’s ability to handle an influx of ballots, DeBeauvoir said the county will provide additional options. DeBeauvoir and her staff are taking advantage of a Texas law that allows voters who have received a ballot by mail to deliver it by hand to the office of the county clerk at 5505 Airport Blvd., Austin. The county had planned two other drive-thru options, but Gov. Greg Abbott ‘s Oct. 1 order limited counties to only one drop-off location for mail in ballots. “This is a deliberate attempt to manipulate the election,” DeBeau- voir said. Early bird casts the vote Williamson County voter Gail Hassell qualifies to vote by mail due to age. However, she will instead opt to vote in person, stating that

Service came under scrutiny for budget cuts that some politicians said would threaten the office’s ability to process mail-in ballots. In August, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified to Congress about the cuts. DeBeauvoir called his decision to remove some high-volume mail-sorting machines “deliberate sabotage.” In a tweet, the Postal Service expressed confidence in smoothly handling election mail, saying “delivering America’s election mail is our No. 1 priority between now and Election Day.”

“THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO IS NOT VOTE, BECAUSE WANTING TO VOTE IS THE SAME AS NOT VOTING AT ALL.” BRIAN SMITH, ST. EDWARDS UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE

Chief Justice Nathan Hecht wrote in the court’s decision that voters were not and would not be required to specify what disability they had when applying for a mail-in ballot. “The voter is not instructed to declare the nature of the underlying disability. The elected officials have placed in the hands of the voter the determination of whether in-person voting will cause a likelihood of injury due to a physical condition,” he wrote. While many states, including Texas, examined mail-in voting regulations this year, the U.S. Postal

Williamson County resident Mike Adams qualifies to vote by mail in the upcoming election. However, due to concerns about the reliability of the post office, he said he will forgo the option to mail in a ballot. “Both my wife and myself qualify to vote by mail,” Adams said. “However, we will vote early at the polls instead. Neither one of us trust the mail-in ballots.” To help boost confidence in the ballot-by-mail system, Williamson County launched a new online tracking system in mid-September. One of the first of its kind in Texas,

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