COVID-19 Pandemic and Questions about Voting

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Disability Rights Texas Handout

Created: 4/22/2020
Updated: 09/02/2020
Publication Code: HA29

COVID-19 Pandemic and Questions about Voting

This handout can be made available in Braille or audio file upon request.

Disability Rights Texas has created this handout to help clarify answers to questions about voting arising during the COVID-19 pandemic.

November General Election Dates

Dates regarding early voting and ballot by mail have been impacted.  These dates are:

  • Voter Registration Deadline: October 5, 2020
  • Application for Ballot-By-Mail deadline: October 23, 2020
  • Early voting: October 13 – 30, 2020
  • Ballot By Mail return date: November 3, 2020 by 7pm
  • Election Day: November 3, 2020

Most local elections that were to occur on May 2, 2020, are now scheduled to occur during the November 2020 election. As of the date of this publication, the date of the November General Election has not changed.

Am I eligible to vote by mail?

Vote by mail means that you can get a ballot mailed to you, mark it, and mail it in to be counted.  To be eligible, you must be a registered voter and meet at least ONE of the following criteria:

  • Will be away from your county on Election Day and during early voting
  • Are sick or have a disability;
  • Will be 65 years of age or older on Election Day; or
  • Are confined in jail but are still eligible to vote.

The Election Code defines “disability” to include “a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on Election Day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health.”  Tex. Elec. Code § 82.002

Disability Rights Texas takes the position that under current state and federal law, if you have a medical condition that puts you at higher risk if you contract COVID-19, (see the CDC list regarding people at higher risk for more information) then you are eligible for ballot by mail.

Will everyone be eligible to vote by mail, even if they don’t have a disability that puts them at risk?

There is current litigation clarifying voting by mail. The outstanding legal arguments deal with the issue of age and voting and whether or not it is discriminatory to only allow people over the age of 65 to vote by mail. That lawsuit is ongoing and the courts have not come to a definitive answer yet.

Will my county (elections office) just mail me an application for ballot by mail?

No. You must request an application for Ballot-By-Mail.  Do not get confused if you get what appears to be a ballot sent by third parties, such as political groups. To receive an application:

  • Request one through your county elections office;
  • Call Disability Rights Texas (1-888-796-VOTE); or
  • Visit the Texas Secretary of State Website to fill out, print and mail-in an application.

If you don’t have access to an application, you can send in a letter asking for a vote by mail ballot, as long as the letter is in writing, and includes:

  • Your signature (or a witness’ signature if you cannot sign);
  • Your name;
  • The address where you are registered to vote;
  • The address where you want the ballot mailed to (see below);
  • The election date you want the ballot for;
  • Which election you want the ballot for (and if it is a primary election, you must state the political party’s primary in which you wish to vote); and
  • The reason why you are eligible to vote early by mail.

For the November 3, 2020 Election date, the last day for the early voting clerk to receive applications for a ballot to be voted by mail is October 23, 2020. The application must be received by that date in order for you to receive a ballot by mail.

If I am currently signed up to receive mail-in-ballots for this year, do I need to do anything extra?

No. The county will continue to mail the ballots to you at the appropriate dates.

How do I apply for ballot-by-mail?

You can get an official application from the Early Voting Clerk in your county, or from the Secretary of State’s office. You can visit the Texas Secretary of State website to search for the contact information for your county’s Early Voting Clerk. You can call either the Secretary of State office or the Early Voting Clerk in your county and have an application mailed to you, or can download one from the Secretary of States office. For any questions about how to obtain or complete this application, please contact Disability Rights Texas at 1-888-796-VOTE.

Should I wait until the last day to apply?

No. The earlier you can turn in your application, the better.

What if I get my mail-in ballot but change my mind and want to vote in-person at a polling site?

You may vote at a polling place even if you have already received your mail-in ballot.  In order to vote in-person, go to the polling site, turn in your blank mail-in ballot to the poll workers, and then you can vote like you normally would at a polling site.

When is the election? Has early voting been extended? 

Election Day is November 3, 2020. Early voting has been extended and will now run from October 13, 2020 to October 30, 2020.

Where can I find additional information about voting in Texas or issues surrounding voting for people with disabilities? 

Texas COVID-19 Election Information

National Disability Rights Network Statement on Elections Accessibility During COVID-19

U.S. Election Assistance Commission Vote by Mail/Absentee Voting Information

We Can Vote Texas Nonpartisan Resource Center

League of Women Voters

Vote 411


Disability Rights Texas logo

www.DRTx.org
Intake: 1-800-252-9108
Main Line: 512-454-4816

Disclaimer: Disability Rights Texas strives to update its materials on an annual basis, and this handout is based upon the law at the time it was written. The law changes frequently and is subject to various interpretations by different courts. Future changes in the law may make some information in this handout inaccurate.

These handouts are not intended to, and do not replace an attorney’s advice or assistance based on your particular situation.