After Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) extended the early voting period for the November general election Monday due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, local county elections administrators are altering plans for the upcoming election
“As we respond to COVID-19, the State of Texas is focused on strategies that preserve Texans’ ability to vote in a way that also mitigates the spread of the virus," said Abbott. "By extending the early voting period and expanding the period in which mail-in ballots can be hand-delivered, Texans will have greater flexibility to cast their ballots, while at the same time protecting themselves and others from COVID-19."
But the change means more details have to be worked out. Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole said they will need to hire additional judges and workers because of the additional week.
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“With our average age of 65 to 70, it was a very big strain in 2018 when we asked our workers to work straight two weeks from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.,” said Pippins-Poole.
Pippins-Poole said they are also looking into larger venues so that voting machines can be spaced further apart, and to acquire masks and gloves and other personal protection items to protect workers and voters.
“We want to make sure due to COVID that we are safe," she added.
Collin County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet supported the extension and told NBC 5 that 83% of registered Collin County voters voted early in 2016 and that allowing more time for people to vote early may relieve some of the congestion at polling places.
Elections administrators like Sherbet and Pippins-Poole will also take lessons learned from the July runoff into their preparations for the November election, which will likely require similar physical distancing requirements and other protective measures.
“There were lessons learned on July 14. I think more in how we set up our locations, how we allocate our equipment, trying to get the biggest rooms available within those facilities where possible, maybe setting up some supercenters that are in areas that are heavily populated,” Sherbet said.
Early voting now begins Tuesday, Oct. 13 and runs until Friday, Oct. 30. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.