Gov. Abbott allows for postponement of local elections amid COVID-19 outbreak

Coronavirus

TAMPA, FL – OCTOBER 22: Voting booths are setup at the Yuengling center on the campus of University of South Florida as workers prepare to open the doors to early voters on October 22, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. Florida voters head to the polls to cast their early ballots in the race for the Senate as well as the Governors seats. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation Wednesday suspending provisions of the Texas Election Code to allow political subdivisions to delay local 2020 elections. This will give governments the power to postpone May elections until November.

“I strongly encourage local election officials to take advantage of these waivers and postpone their elections until November,” said Abbott in a press release. “Right now, the state’s focus is responding to COVID-19 — including social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. By delaying this election, our local election officials can assist in that effort.” 

This move from the Governor comes after the League of Texas Voters of Texas urged Abbott to take steps to ensure the safety of Texas voters and preserve elections in the state.

“We have reached out to Governor Abbott and Secretary of State Hughes, as well as the members of the Texas Senate State Affairs and House Elections Committees, to propose steps to ensure the health and safety of Texas voters during the election process,” stated Grace Chimene, League of Women Voters of Texas president and retired nurse practitioner.

The league outlined a list of steps, which included offering safe physical polling locations, to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus for Texas voters.

  • Encourage Ballot-by-Mail for anyone 65 or older, and all eligible citizens with disabilities that qualify them for a mail-in ballot.  
  • Promote early voting to reduce crowds and lines on Election Day.
  • Promote county expansion of the number of trained poll workers and election judges to cover absences, and therefore prevent the closure of polling places.
  • Work closely with the Governor’s Office to assure the availability of needed hygiene supplies to counties for conducting the election.
  • Provide leadership to heavily promote voter registration by mail, and implement quickly-available voter registration through the State’s Texas.gov portal in this emergency. 
  • Collaborate closely with local election officials statewide to provide up-to-date polling site location information online and commit to posting any polling place changes on the SOS public-facing website VoteTexas.gov within 3 hours of those changes. 
  • Emphasize the need for accurate polling place wait time web postings on Election Day.

“It is the mission of the League to ‘Empower Voters and Defend Democracy'” said Chimene. “We envision a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate, even during this community health crisis.”

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