New state law leaves election administrators scrambling

A bill signed into law in June by Gov. Greg Abbot, goes into effect Sept. 1, could place an extra burden on voters in nursing homes and on the county, Young County Election Administrator Lauren Sullivan said. However, moves are underway to revoke that law before it take effect.

House Bill 658 was put through in the regular session and started as a bill to address voters who have trouble waiting in lines at polling locations because of a disability or health concerns. It was in the last few days of the session that the bill changed, Sullivan said.

“A bill that had gotten stuck in a couple of other committees and that sort of things, basically got paper-clipped to the House Bill 658, and it added language that said if five or more applications for ballot-by-mail are received from a residential care facility with more than 10 beds, then (election officials) must show up in person,” she said. “You have to send two election judges and hand deliver ballots-by-mail, have the voter vote those ballots and then the judges would collect them and bring them back to the county within 18 hours.”

Voting process

The county would have to pay the two election judges $10 per hour to work versus the $1.25 it costs to just mail the ballots to those who request them, Sullivan said. The total additional cost per election would be $500 because Sullivan said she can’t wait for five applications, but would rather have a more fair approach.

“We are going to go ahead and set up dates when we go out to the nursing homes and we are going to be there for about four hours and you have to be registered inside the nursing home so only those residents,” she said. “The staff can’t be in on it, the visiting doctors, the kids who come to visit, mom or grandma can’t vote in the nursing home.”

Sullivan would set a day where she or her staff would visit each of the five eligible nursing homes in Young County that were provided to her on a list created by the state health department and Texas Secretary of State. They would spend around four hours, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and try to get all of those registered in those homes to vote if they are available.

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