Cy-Fair Edition | October 2020

GOVERNMENT

2020 Voter Guide

VOTING Harris County gears up for potential record turnout inNovember election

The Harris County Clerk’s Office has taken on a number of initiatives to make voting safer and more accessible to voters during the coronavirus pandemic. DURING COVID-19 Harris County voters can cast ballots at any of the county’s polling centers during the early voting period and on Election Day. There are 2.4 MILLION registered voters in Harris County, and officials projected as many as 70%—or 1.7 MILLION —could cast ballots in this year’s election. WHERE TO VOTE

BY SHAWN ARRAJJ

mail—those who are ages 65 and older, those who are disabled, those who will not be in the county during the voting period, and those who are in jail but are otherwise eligible to vote. In his Sept. 11 ruling, Judge R.K. Sandill said Paxton’s argument “ring[ed] hollow,” and Hollins himself has called the lawsuit “baseless” and “friv- olous.” Hollins said the county is complying with the Supreme Court stay but is prepared to move forward if a ruling comes down in their favor. Any mail ballot applications sent out would also include educational information explaining who is and is not eligible to vote by mail, Hollins said. “Fortunately, all vote-by-mail applications have already been delivered to Harris County voters aged 65 and above,” Hollins said in a Sept. 15 state- ment. “My office is prepared to send applications and educational materials to remaining registered voters at the conclusion of this baseless litigation.” Prior to the July primary runoff election, the county sent out nearly 400,000 mail ballot appli- cations to registered voters age 65 and older, and Hollins said about 50,000 of those were returned. About 80,000 people voted by mail during July elections, Hollins said. “The success of our outreach efforts in June and July is a clear indication the voters are concerned about their health at the polls,” Hollins said. The effort to boost mail ballot infrastructure is part of a larger $27 million plan to both prepare for and carry out the November election, including the implementation of 10 polling locations where voters can use drive-thru voting. A total of 121 early voting locations will be open starting Oct. 13, triple the number of early voting options in 2016. Hollins said he is aiming to have a record 808 locations open on Election Day. “We have a critical need for large facilities to serve as voting centers, and we left no stone unturned in our search,” he said.

Harris County is moving forward with prepara- tions for the November election, which officials said could feature record-breaking turnout in the middle of a pandemic. However, plans put in place by the Harris County Clerk’s Office to send mail ballot applica- tions to the county’s 2.4 million registered voters have been put in question after a lawsuit was filed and a stay issued by the Texas Supreme Court on Sept. 15. Harris County Clerk Christopher Hollins has identified mail voting as a crucial tool for voters to help keep people safe from the coronavirus. “This also makes it safer and more convenient for in-person voters. [It is] one less person to wait behind in line and one less person they might be exposed to at a voting center,” Hollins said at a Sept. 10 press conference. The Sept. 15 stay was the latest in a back-and- forth battle between the county and the state over whether Harris County has the legal authority to send mail ballots to all registered voters. After the clerk’s office first announced its plans in an Aug. 25 tweet, the Texas secretary of state’s office sent Hollins a letter ordering those plans to be halted. By Aug. 31, the Texas attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit. A state district judge and an appeals court have both sided with Harris County, but the Supreme Court’s stay will remain in place throughout the appeals process, which means the county’s plans are blocked until the case fully plays out. Paxton has argued sending applications to all registered voters would confuse voters and poten- tially cause people who are not eligible to vote by mail to attempt to do so. Texas is one of six states that is not allowing all registered voters to vote by mail during the pandemic, Hollins said. Under state law, only certain voters are eligible to vote by

up from 46 in 2016 locations 121 early voting

projected Election Day voting locations 808

up from 785 in 2016

Drive-thru voting will be available at 10 LOCATIONS .

24-hour voting will be available overnight Oct. 29 at SIX LOCATIONS , including one in Cypress:

JUERGENS HALL COMMUNITY CENTER 26026 Hempstead Hwy., Cypress

290

N

VOTING BY MAIL

Under Texas law, voting by mail is limited to people: ages 65 and older disabled outside of the county throughout the voting period in jail but otherwise eligible to vote

DATE TO KNOW

Mail ballot applications must be received by OCT. 23 .

NEW THIS YEAR

In addition to mailing ballots in, voters can drop off mail ballots at any of the county’s 11 ANNEXES on or before Election Day.

SOURCE: HARRIS COUNTY CLERK’S OFFICE/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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CY-FAIR EDITION • OCTOBER 2020

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