The COVID-19 outbreak has created challenges during a high-stakes Texas election cycle.
With days ticking down to a July primary runoff and COVID-19 cases still rising
in the state, Texas Secretary of State Susan Hughs on Tuesday issued recommendations for avoiding outbreaks at the polls.
The eight-page document
suggests that folks concerned they have COVID-19 symptoms "may want to consider" voting curbside during the pandemic. Among her recommendations for those not experiencing fever, shortness of breath or "repeated shaking with chills" are bringing along hand sanitizer and your own writing utensil. Oh, yeah, you also may want to consider strapping on a mask.
Suffice to say, voting-rights groups are underwhelmed by Hughs' suggested protocols.
They point out that the recommendations come as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wages an all-out courtroom war
to prevent the expansion of vote-by-mail in the state. In multiple lawsuits, proponents argue that letting people under 65 vote by mail would reduce contagion risks at the polls.
“The recommendations that Secretary Hughs put forward today do little to assure voters that they will be safe when they walk into their polling locations," said Lauren Banister, an associate with Austin-based TexPIRG, in an emailed statement. "No one should have to choose between their health and their fundamental right to vote.”
According to Hughs' office, the document released Tuesday is meant as a baseline of safety protocols upon which local administration elections officials can build.
But TexPIRG's Banister suggested that the recommendations ignore the most obvious solution to protecting voters this election season.
“A simple way to ensure polling locations are safe is reduce the number of people who need to show up on election day," TexPIRG's Banister added. "Governor Abbott took the first step when he extended the early voting period. Now the state must allow more people to vote at home. Voting at home is a safe, non-partisan way to protect our democracy and our health at the same time.”
Early voting for the July primary runoff starts June 29.
Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.