Georgetown | October 2020

“These days, I don’t get outmuch. But I’ve also always voted. That’s important tome.” EDWARD MONK, WILLIAMSON COUNTY RESIDENT AND FIRST-TIME BALLOT-BY-MAIL VOTER “I love [votingbymail] because it is convenient, and I have trouble standing in lines because I have arthritic knees thatmake it painful.” KAREN WEST, WILLIAMSON COUNTY RESIDENT AND SEASONED BALLOT-BY-MAIL VOTER WEIGHING THE OPTIONS

NOV. 3, 2020 ELECTION mail-in ballots expected nationally 100M

Early voting polling locations in Williamson County 19 Election Day polling locations in Williamson County 57 mail-in ballots expected in Williamson County 40K-50K

“Bothmywife andmyself qualify to vote bymail. However, we will vote early at the polls instead. Neither one of us trust themail-inballots.” MIKE ADAMS, WILLIAMSON COUNTY RESIDENT AND IN-PERSON VOTER

“I will be voting inpersonduring the early votingperiod. I go to the grocery store, andvotingwill be nodierent safety-wise.” GAIL HASSELL, WILLIAMSON COUNTY RESIDENT AND IN-PERSON VOTER

mail-in ballots expected in Travis County 100K

she perceives the risks as similar to activities she currently undertakes. “I will be voting in person during the early voting period,” Hassell said. “I go to the grocery store, and voting will be no different safety-wise.” Even during a pandemic, past election trends suggest a majority of voters will visit the polls in person, either on Election Day or during the early voting period from Oct. 13-30. Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the early voting period this year to 18 days in light of the pandemic. However, a group of prominent Texas Republicans, including state party Chair Allen West, embarked on a legal effort in late September to undo the governor’s executive order that extended early voting, but the Texas Supreme Court ruled it would still start Oct. 13. Regardless of the specific start date for early voting, DeBeauvoir andDavis agree that voting early is the best way for voters to ensure they make it to the voting booth with the expectation of long lines on Election Day. While voting lines can be unwieldy in any election year, 6-foot social distancing requirements at the polls are likely to lengthen them in November, Smith said. “If you don’t take advantage of early voting, you’ll show up on Election Day and the lines might be long, and then what you’re going to

do is give up that sacred right,” Smith said. “The worst thing you can do is not vote, because wanting to vote is the same as not voting at all.” Travis County will operate 37 early voting and 177 Election Day polling locations. Williamson County will operate 19 early voting and 57 Election Day polling locations. During the voting period, residents can use their county’s website to check wait times at nearby polls and choose one with a short wait at a date and time convenient to them. Health and safety Social distancing is just one aspect of the health and sanitation requirements planned for area polling places. Many of these precautions, including plastic barriers, finger cots for signatures, popsicle sticks for voting screens, and personal protective equipment for poll workers and voters, were already in place during July’s primary runoff elections. Nathan Ryan, a local business executive who volunteered at the polls in July, said he felt satisfied by the precautions taken at that time. “We took safety measures extremely seriously. We would listen to concerns that any voter had, and make sure that [if] they felt they needed PPE, or if there were things like that that we could be helpful

with, then we would make sure that they have what they needed,” he said. Ryan volunteered for the first time in July after learning that most of the Travis County’s poll workers were over the age of 65 and considered at-risk for coronavirus. Many of those longtime volunteers sat out the July election or helped with processing mail-in ballots away from the crowds. In November, again, the county is seeking volunteers, and he plans to be one of them. Neither Travis County nor Williamson County experienced a significant increase in positive coronavirus tests following the July election, something local health experts have attributed to good health practices at the polls. Assuming the current statewide and local mask mandates remain in place through Nov. 3, voters will be asked to wear masks to the polls. However, DeBeauvoir and Davis said voters who refuse to wear a mask will still be allowed to vote. “We really want all of our voters to wear a mask,” Davis said. “But we cannot require them to do so. We cannot turn them away from voting.” One way Davis hopes to alleviate potential conflictsovermaskwearing is through providing an option to vote in one’s vehicle curbside. Whether a voter is physically unable or uncomfortable going inside to

Early voting polling locations in Travis County 37 Election Day polling locations in Travis County 177


vote, or as an alternative for a voter who is not wearing a mask, curbside voting is a legally permitted option in Texas. The most important mission of the clerk’s office for this election, DeBeauvoir said, is tomake voters feel safe and confident to vote. “They’ve been frightened by coming inside the polling place, and they’ve been frightened about putting ballots in the mail. What else is left to voters?” she said. “Don’t let them take those options away from you. You can vote by mail, and you can vote in person—safely.”

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