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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Voting safely during a pandemic

Students+in+line+to+Vote
Graphic by Gabrielle Shreve
Students in line to Vote

Texas officials said they have adapted during the pandemic with options designed to make voters feel safe during in-person voting. The following rundown explains all Texas voting options.

Mail-in Ballots

Mailed ballots and absentee ballots are interchangeable terms, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Texas is among 16 states that require a voter meet specific state eligibility requirements, making it one of the most restrictive states to vote by mail, according to NCSL.
Mail-in eligibility is valid for voters aged 65 or older; voters confined to jail but still eligible; or voters who have a recognized disability as defined by the Texas Election Codes. A May 27 Texas Supreme Court opinion stated that fear of contracting COVID-19 does not satisfy the disability requirement as defined by the Election Code.
Brazos County Elections Administrator Trudy Hancock said election officials have no authority to question a voter’s statement regarding a recognized disability.
“We don’t police that, but that’s not saying I encourage that to be used,” Hancock said. She said the Texas Attorney General may choose to review ballots and has authority to investigate whether the voter’s request meets vote by mail qualifications.

Early Voting

The 2020 early voting period was extended by Gov. Abbott on July 27 and will now begin on Oct. 13 rather than Oct. 19. The proclamation also extended the period during which marked mail-in ballots may be delivered in person, by the voter, to the early voting clerk’s office to the same dates to address recent concerns about slowdown of mail delivery.

Curbside Voting

Curbside voting is available to older voters, voters with compromised health and voters with disabilities, Hancock said.
“All polling locations have that,” Hancock said. “Just know that it’s not like McDonald’s and a quick in and out service.” It is a lengthy process because poll workers have to check each voter in and bring voting equipment to them, she said.

Safety Precautions

While it encourages use of masks, Gov. Abbott’s state-wide executive order specifically exempts polling sites from the state’s face-covering requirements.
“We made clear that masks are highly recommended,” Abbott said at a town hall meeting in Houston. “We don’t want to deny somebody the ability to go vote simply because they don’t have a mask.”
Hancock encouraged Brazos County voters to wear masks, but noted they are not required. Most poll workers will wear either a mask or a face shield, she said.
“There’s social distancing markers on the floors, hand sanitizer going in and coming out,” Hancock said. Brazos County also purchased a device that sanitizes the stylus before and after each voter uses it, Hancock said, because all voters have to use a specific stylus to sign poll pads.
These are the same precautions Hancock said her office implemented during July elections, and no cases of COVID-19 were traced back to Brazos County polling sites following the voting period.
Complete list of Brazos County poll locations, dates and times for early and Nov. 3 voting at BrazosVotes.org by clicking “Voting Places.”


This story is a collaboration between The Battalion and upperclassmen in Texas A&M’s journalism degree. To see the online copy of the “All Things Voting” print edition, click here.

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