County election office expects vote by mail surge
The Hays County Elections Office expects an increase of voting by mail in the upcoming election due to concerns over crowds at polling stations during a pandemic.
The commissioners court is preparing for the quickly approaching registration deadline exactly one month away by applying for several election related grants and soliciting proposals for the operations of ballot-by-mail.
The commissioners will vote on applying for three grants from the state and federal government regarding COVID-19 and Election Cyber Security: the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) 2020 CARES Act Grant, 2018 Election Security Grant and the 2020 Election Security Grant.
The funds can be used for voting equipment, election auditing, voter registration systems, cybersecurity and communications.
The court will also approve details on a request for proposal for election ballot printing, insertion and mailing services to assist with ballot-by-mail materials.
The deadline to register for ballot-by-mail for the July run-off is July 2. You can register by printing and mailing the application from the Hays County Elections website.
Checking the “annual application box 6A” ensures you are able to vote by mail all year.
Many Hays County residents are qualified to vote by mail: those who are 65 years and older, and those who have a disability including those who have a condition that makes them at risk to COVID-19 which is argued to be a “disability.” Disability is defined in the Texas Election Code as, “a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing personal or of injuring the voter's health."
The Texas Supreme Court and the Hays County Elections Office has said they will not be policing what qualifies as a disability.
In its recent review of Texas Election Code, the Texas Supreme Court wrote, “the application form provided by the Secretary of State requires only that voters check a box indicating whether the reason for seeking a ballot by mail is a disability. The voter is not instructed to declare the nature of the underlying disability. The elected officials have placed in the hands of the voter the determination of whether in-person voting will cause a likelihood of injury due to a physical condition.”
Hays County has 143,586 registered voters, 26,345 of which are age 65 and older.
Based on the 2016 and 2018 elections, the elections office was projecting 10,000 mail-in ballots, but now are anticipating as many as 25,000 if all voters over the age of 65 vote by mail.