We asked local officials how they were preparing to make elections safe

Posted at 8:23 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 21:23:01-04

We're two months away from the primary elections and state officials are searching for a solution to voting in the heat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton saying fear of contracting COVID-19 should not be seen as a reason to qualify mail-in voting.

"I want my vote to count... but at the same time with this pandemic you don't know who has it... when you're standing next to somebody you don't know what to expect," says Waco resident Rosa Jones.

Jones has a disabled family member deciding between health and making sure their vote is counted.

Does she goes to the polls to vote or does she mail her vote in and not know if it's being accounted for?

Kathy Van Wolfe, Elections Administrator for McLennan County says both options are safe.

"We certainly have worked on trying to make sure we have enough protective equipment for our workers, hand sanitizers, face masks; we have actually gotten these shields that we've gotten for our face workers to wear," says Van Wolfe.

The Brazos County Elections Administrator Trudy Hancock says their election workers will wear masks and gloves. They will also wipe down equipment between voters and set hand sanitizers before and after people enter the building.

The same standards are being set in Bell County.

"We are providing protective shields at the check in kiosk where voters come to check in at the polling location. 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 percent isopropyl alcohol for them to clean off the touch screens of the voting equipment periodically throughout the day," says Melinda Luedecke the Bell County Elections Administrator.

In Texas, people who are out of the county during a voting period, 65 years or older, or people with an Illness or disability are only allowed to mail-in vote.

Which raises the question, should concerns over possible exposure to COVID-19 constitute as a disability?

Jon Ker, Chairman of the Republican party of McLennan County, says no.

"It does not create a legally defined disability; it may create a situation of apprehension significant enough to stay away but that's not a disability." says Ker.

Mary Duty, the Democratic Party of McLennan County Chairwoman disagrees.

"There's a whole host of things we can't see... and it's not anybody else's business to know what those are because the government protects us through the Americans with Disabilities Act," says Duty.

She believes mail-in voting should be open to all with no question.

"Your ballot is your own, it is your voice... it is your idea of what this country should look like by who you elect," says Duty.

The Primary Run-off election is slated for July 14, followed by the Presidential Election Nov. 3.