CITY& COUNTY Harris County approves up to $12Mto expandmail-in voting
REAL HEROES DON’T WEAR CAPES.
BY SHAWN ARRAJJ
county’s position. Trautman—who later announced plans to retire by the end of May because of personal health concerns amid the coronavirus—told commissioners there is no time to wait for a court ruling. “In an election such as November, we should’ve had all of these things already decided by April 15, so we’re behind already,” she said.
HARRIS COUNTY The courtroom battle over mail-in ballots in Texas is ongoing, but Harris County officials said they are preparing to offer mail-in ballots to all voters who request them in 2020 elections. In a 3-2 vote April 28, Harris County commissioners voted to invest up to $12 million into an effort by the Harris County Clerk’s Office to expand the mail-in ballot program and ensure the safety of in-person voting. “I am not waiting on the state for answers,” Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman said. “I am preparing for an expanded mail ballot program in addition to a safe and secure in-per- son voting process. No matter what the courts and the state decide for the July and November elections, we must be prepared for an increase in mail ballots, which we have already seen in our office.” Mail-in ballots are typically available in Texas to voters who are age 65 or older; have a disability; are a resident of Harris County but will not be able to vote in the county during the election; or are in jail but other- wise eligible to vote. Eligible voters must fill out an application and be approved by the county clerk. The $12 million investment comes amid a debate in Texas over whether the coronavirus pandemic is a legitimate reason for a voter to request a mail-in ballot under the umbrella of “disability.” On April 17, a state judge issued a temporary injunction allow- ing voters to request a mail ballot based on fears of the coronavirus. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed that order and sent a letter May 1 to county leaders across the state in which he said election officials who provide mail-in ballots to residents claiming coronavirus fears could face punishment. The Harris County Attorney’s Office issued its own letter reaffirming the
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“I AM PREPARING FOR AN EXPANDED MAIL BALLOT PROGRAM IN ADDITION TO A SAFE AND SECURE IN- PERSON VOTING PROCESS.” DIANE TRAUTMAN, HARRIS COUNTY CLERK
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The $12 million approved by com- missioners April 28 funds as many as 2.4 million vote-by-mail applications— one for every registered voter in the county—as well as personal protective equipment to operate in-person voting and a voter outreach program to educate voters on the expanded availability of mail-in ballots. Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle voted against the measure. Cagle said he was against funding the entire $12 million at once without seeing more details of how the money would be spent, recommending instead to provide $1 million in funding for the July elections and revisiting future needs later on.
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Jersey Village City Council will meet at 7 p.m. June 15. 713-466-2100. www.jerseyvillage.info Harris County Commissioners Court will meet at 10 a.m. May 19. 713-698-1102. www.harriscountytx.gov MEETINGSWE COVER: Livestreams can be accessed via websites.
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