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Report: Democracy For The People
Safe, Healthy Elections During COVID-19
Every American citizen has a fundamental right to participate in our democratic process. Recent elections across the country have revealed problems with attempting to hold a traditional election where large public gatherings present a public health risk.
Texas is no different. The state is reporting record high new daily COVID-19 cases and new hospitalizations less than a week before citizens will begin early voting for the July 14, 2020 runoff election. State and local officials must do everything in their power to ensure that no voter is disenfranchised because they cannot safely vote without threatening their health.
TexPIRG Education Fund surveyed 24 county clerks and election administrators to understand how they are preparing for the primary runoff. Our survey found that:
- 46% of counties are struggling to staff their polling locations
- All counties are implementing some version of health, safety and social distancing protocol
- Two counties are having difficulty acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE) due to price increases or lack of availability
- 50% of counties are buying additional materials or hiring additional staff because of an increase in vote by mail requests.
- 34% of county election departments have health and safety protocols and voting options listed on their website
- 33% said funding became more difficult with the extension of the early voting period
In order to prepare for the November general election, which will have a much higher turnout than the primary, counties should follow the best practices highlighted in this report. This includes:
- Increasing public outreach to communicate voting options, share health information and recruit younger poll workers
- Following all CDC guidelines for safe polling locations as well as considering the creative solutions of counties highlighted in the report
The state government must take on a larger responsibility in preparing for the November general election. This includes:
- Finalizing the dates of the early voting period soon so counties can begin preparing
- Expanding voting by mail options to reduce social contact
- Supporting counties in the procurement and distribution of PPE, the logistics for expanding voting by mail and public education efforts.
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