Election officials in Bell and McLennan Counties say the governor's proclamation aimed at enhancing security protocols for the in-person delivery of mailed ballots will not change their plans for the 2020 election.
Thursday afternoon, Governor Abbott issued a proclamation stating mail ballots that are delivered in-person by voters who are eligible to vote by mail must be delivered to a single early voting clerk’s office location designated by a county’s early voting clerk.
Under Texas law, voters can bring their mail-in ballot into an election office for submission instead of sending it through the mail.
"It's a really great way for voters to be able to drop their ballot off and know it's securely getting in the hands of election officials rather than putting it through the mail," Maya Patel with the Campus Vote Project said.
Harris and Tarrant counties were forced to close multiple ballot drop-off sites as a result of the proclamation.
According to election administrators in both Bell and McLennan counties, the proclamation will have no effect on how they deal with mail-in ballots. Both counties originally planned to only have one drop off location.
"It would need to be basically a member of my office that would be responsible for handling those transactions," Bell County Interim Elections Administrator Matthew Dutton said. "And with the limited amount of staff I have, I couldn't send them out to each early voting site to man a box."
In recent months, mail-in ballots have been the focus of voter fraud claims, leading more people to submit their ballots in-person.
Abbott's proclamation would also allow poll watchers to sit in election offices to make sure fraudulent votes are not counted.
"It's hard to [commit voter fraud] because you have to show an ID and you have to hand deliver that ballot," Patel said. "I just don't see how closing these satellite sites will help that."
Patel said the changes could have an impact on student voters who want to drop their ballots off at home.
"This might affect college students, but I think it really more-so affects the populations who are eligible to vote by mail," she said.
For those who are unable to make it to their county's elections office, traditional mail-in voting remains an option.
"I can't speak for the rest of the country, but I can speak for Bell County's postal system and we've had nothing but good experiences," Dutton said.
There is still time to apply for a mail-in ballot. Election officials must receive mailed applications by October 23.