Who can cast a ballot by mail in Texas is the subject of disagreement between local and state officials, and members of both political parties. Election officials have suggested that voters apply for a mail-in ballot if they fear voting in person because of COVID-19. But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said that the narrow list of reasons a voter can apply for an absentee ballot does not include fear of catching the disease.
Now, the Texas secretary of state’s office has published an eight-page document that includes protocols for safe in-person voting – a move that’s difficult to separate from the ongoing vote-by-mail battle.
James Barragán has been following the story for The Dallas Morning News. He told Texas Standard host David Brown on Wednesday that the document is aimed at voters, election officials and the judges who will rule on state and federal lawsuits related to Texas’ vote-by-mail rules.
“The state has been very clear that they don’t want mail voting to happen,” Barragán said. “They argued that it makes it easy to commit voter fraud. And the reality is that there has been voter fraud through mail-in voting in the past … but it’s very minimal compared to the millions and millions of votes cast every year in Texas.”
The detailed guide to in-person voting is the state’s argument that an expanded mail-in option isn’t needed.
The document urges election officials to provide hand sanitizer and wipes at polling places, spacing of voting stations six feet apart and markers to facilitate social distancing. Face coverings are encouraged, but not required for poll workers or voters. Poll workers who directly assist voters in casting ballots, including those conducting curbside voting, are required to wear a face covering.
“Voting rights advocates say those are still not enough,” Barragán said. “The only safe way to do this is to expand mail ballots.”
Barragán said election officials can add more requirements for poll workers such as taking voters’ temperatures. But such screening methods aren’t part of the state’s recommendations.
Web story by Shelly Brisbin.
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