LULAC files lawsuit to permanently expand voting-by-mail eligibility

Posted at 10:36 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 23:41:39-04

The July primary runoff elections and November presidential election are right around the corner. With the country in the midst of a pandemic, your voting experience could look very different.

Melinda Luedecke, the Bell County Elections Administrator, says the county is prepared.

"We are providing protective shields at the check-in kiosk where voters come to check in at the polling location," said she said. "We're providing cloth masks to all of our election workers, as well as hand sanitizer to the election workers, cans of Lysol for them to use throughout their location, and we are also providing 75% isopropyl alcohol for them to clean off the touch screens of the voting equipment periodically throughout the day."

McLennan County Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe says her team is also prepared.

"Hand sanitizers, face masks, we have actually gotten these shields that we've gotten for our face workers to wear," said Wolfe.

Even with the modifications, in an effort to avoid the long lines and contact with others at the polls, AnaLuisa Carrillo-Tapia with The League of United Latin American Citizens Central Texas believes many may turn to voting by mail as a safer option.

"We have to be forward thinking. We have to protect ourselves and protect every member of our family, our household, our neighbors," she said.

Typically, unless you're 65 years or older, sick or disabled, will be out of the county, or are in jail and not convicted, you can't cast your ballot by mail in Texas.

However on Thursday, a Texas appeals court upheld a lower court ruling, temporarily expanding mail-in balloting for any voter who fears for their health due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"People should not have to choose between their health or their vote," said Vanessa Cardenas, senior advisor to the CEO of LULAC National Office.

LULAC is working to expand Texas' voting-by-mail eligibility for good. The organization has filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas arguing the restriction limiting age eligibility to those 65 and older for voting-by-mail unjustifiably henders Texas Latinos, who tend to be younger in age.

"The majority of voters, just in Texas and just nationwide, when you speak about Latinos, are between 18 and 29-years-old, so we're speaking about a very young community that needs to be engaged and that we should be expanding the ways in which we are reaching out to them and not limiting them," said Cardenas.

She says a permanent expansion is especially important for communities of color.

"That are suffering the impact at a greater rate," said Cardenas. "They should have more accessibility so they can actually go vote."

Bell and McLennan County officials say they will also implement social distancing practices, keeping voters 6 feet apart.

Governor Abbott has issued a proclamation extending early voting for the July 14 runoffs. Early voting will begin June 29 instead of on July 6.