AUSTIN – In Wake of Wisconsin Disaster, a coalition of voting rights groups call on Texas to take action now on Monday several of the leading voting rights organizations in Texas sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott and Secretary of State Ruth Hughs urging them to act now to adopt a series of emergency election measures.
“It’s time for the people in power in Texas to stop worrying about political considerations and just do the right thing to make sure no Texan is forced to choose between voting and endangering their lives,” according to Common Cause Executive Director Anthony Gutierrez.
Watching Wisconsin voters having to wait in long lines because of a severe decrease in voting polling places open due to volunteer workers’ fears, has raised concerns over how we will handle spring and fall elections.
“No Texan should be forced to choose between their safety and their fundamental right to vote. Texas already allows no-excuse vote-by-mail for voters aged 65 and up, and we need our state to expand that benefit to everyone else immediately,” stated Progress Texas Executive Director Ed Espinoza.
Recommended steps to protect access to the ballot box
The advocates are recommending the following measures:
- Allow anyone with public health concerns to vote by mail: The option to vote by mail should be explicitly made available to all registered voters (not just those who currently qualify to vote by mail in Texas). Any Texan who wishes to vote by mail due to health concerns associated with voting in-person should be allowed to request a mail ballot by checking the “disabled” option on the application.
- Safe polling places: To ensure every polling site can meet public health guidelines, counties must be given the necessary funding to pay for disinfecting wipes, masks and other cleaning supplies.
- Improve vote by mail infrastructure: Improving the mail-in-ballot infrastructure — setting up a centralized tracking system to monitor and ensure that counties are responding to mail-ballot applications in a timely manner, ballots are being mailed and are actually arriving in time. Funds for counties to send express or overnight ballots when voters do not receive their ballots in time or the returned ballots are not received by the county due to potential mail system problems. Funds for additional resources needed to process and tabulate mail ballots.
- Allow Texans to register to vote online: Online voter registration (OVR) must be implemented immediately. This is the safest method by which citizens register to vote.
- Provide funding to counties for recruitment of additional poll workers: We should allocate significant funding to the recruitment and training of election workers and back-up election workers to be prepared for the likely scenario where many of the current pool of election workers decide they no longer feel safe doing a job that requires them to spend several days/hours among large groups.
- Undertake an aggressive public education campaign: Texas must undertake aggressive voter education campaigns as they make necessary changes to their policies and practices, and must additionally counter any disinformation (intentional or not) with facts and accurate information.