Early voting begins today for primary runoffs

By Jennifer Dorsett

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Texas primary election runoffs were postponed from late May until mid-July.

In preparation for the runoffs, Secretary of State Ruth Hughs released a list of minimum recommended health protocols voters should follow.

The state said voters should consider wearing face masks, bringing marking devices such as pencils or styluses to the polls and using curbside voting if experiencing a cough, fever, shortness of breath or other COVID-19 symptoms.

The eight-page document sets out guidelines for voters and election workers, including self-screening for symptoms and increased sanitation of voting equipment and polling areas.

Voters in Texas have long had the option of having a ballot brought to them outside the polling place if they are physically unable to enter the polling place “without personal assistance or in the likelihood of injuring the voter’s health.”

The state also instructed local election officials to place markings on the floor to facilitate social distancing, maintaining at least six feet between voting stations and suggested considering the requirement for all poll workers to wear masks.

These protocols are merely a starting point, the secretary added. Counties that wish to take additional steps to protect voters and poll workers may do so.

Early voting for the July primary runoff starts June 29 and runs through July 10. Election Day is July 14.

Despite several lawmakers, civic groups and others calling for an expansion of absentee voting, the guidelines for voting by mail remain the same as prior to the pandemic.

To be eligible to vote early by mail in Texas, you must:

• Be 65 years or older

• Be disabled

• Be out of the county on Election Day and during the period for early voting by personal appearance

• Be confined in jail, but otherwise eligible

The state’s guidance does not consider the pending legal questions surrounding the pandemic. Instead, Hughs suggests voters 65 years of age or older “may consider” voting by mail given the higher risks they seem to face in contracting COVID-19.

For more information and to find your local polling place, visit https://www.votetexas.gov.