WACO, Texas — Less than one week from Election Day, polling centers across Central Texas are preparing to assist voters stuck in isolation due to a positive COVID-19 test.
According to McLennan County Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe, Texas voting locations will assist isolated voters in the same way they treat voters who are sent to the hospital close to Election Day with serious injury or illness.
"We certainly don't want to disenfranchise any of our voters," Van Wolfe said. "We certainly want to make the voting experience good for our voters, but because of COVID-19, we have had to put in some different protocols."
So, what do you do if you have to isolate on Election Day?
According to Van Wolfe, the first step requires you to send an "authorized agent" to pick up an emergency ballot request form from your county's election office. That agent is often a relative, although it is not required by Texas code.
"That agent would be the go-between us and the voter, rather than the voter coming to our office or going to a voting site and expose others to it," Van Wolfe said.
The authorized agent will then bring the form to the voter to be filled out before returning it to the elections office. The agent must also present a doctor's note or other proof of a positive test.
If approved, the agent will be given the emergency ballot. The ballot must be received by 5 p.m. on Election Day.
The agent must then bring the emergency ballot to the voter in isolation, who will fill it out for final submission. The same agent must then bring the ballot back to the elections office by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
"When somebody has tested positive and been exposed to that, I don't have hazmat suits that I can provide to my worker to go out and deal with that," Van Wolfe said.
The process is a revision of the standard practice for voters incurring serious injury, but Van Wolfe said she has never seen it implemented as widely as it will likely be used in 2020.
"We don't want to have our workers have to deal with it or for the other voters who are in the polling place to be exposed as well," she said.