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County vote by mail applications to increase due to Virus concerns

Voters 65 and over and disabled receiving Applications

By Allan Jamail

HOUSTON – June 5, 2020 – Harris County residents are concerned about voting during the deadly contagious COVID-19 virus that’s spreading person to person across the whole world. Harris County is expecting a large increase of mail-in-voting from voters worried about gathering in crowded polling locations.

The highly contagious disease can be passed on human to human. Studies revealed an infected person even without virus symptoms was spreading the germs as easily as talking to one another by “voice-droplets” transmitted in the air. County health officials are asking residents to stay 6 feet apart and to wear a mask when out in public.

Harris County Commissioners Court voted to spend up to $12 million for an expected uptick in requests for mail-in ballots in the July primary runoff and November general election from voters concerned about contracting the novel coronavirus at polling places.

Lina Hidalgo, County Judge, and Commissioners Adrian Garcia and Rodney Ellis — the three Democrats on the five-member court — voted to give $12 million, enough to send a mail-in ballot to every registered voter in the county. The two Republican Commissioner members, Steve Radack and Jack Cagle, objected and said the clerk failed to justify the expense, and seemed not to be as concerned about voters possibly being exposed to the virus.

Newly appointed Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins said, “Our office is preparing for an increase in mail ballots in addition to a safe and secure in-person voting process.” Hollins added, “We are working with emergency management and health officials to make sure we follow their safety recommendations.”

He is preparing for a significant expansion of mail voting during the novel corona virus pandemic as some residents are wary of voting at potentially crowded polling sites.

This past Friday the Clerk’s office sent for the July primary runoff vote by mail applications to 376,840 registered voters who are 65 years of age and older. Those voters should expect to start receiving the applications in their mailboxes this week. To receive a mail ballot for the July 14 Primary Runoff Elections, voters must complete their applications and return them promptly by July 2 (received, not postmarked).

“All registered voters 65 and older are eligible to vote by mail,” said Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins. “Our goal is to keep our voters 65 and up safe amid the current health crisis by giving them the opportunity to vote from home.”

Once applications are received and approved, mail ballots are sent to voters no later than the seventh calendar day after applications are received. 524,219 people voted in the March 2020 Primary Elections. Of those, 53,910 voted by mail.

DATES TO REMEMBER:

• Monday, June 15 – Last day to register to vote in the 2020 Primary Runoff.

• Monday, June 29 – First day of in-person Early Voting period.

• Thursday, July 2 – Last day to apply for a mail ballot for the 2020 Primary Runoff.

• Friday, July 10 – Last day of in-person Early Voting.

• Tuesday, July 14 2020 – Primary Runoff Election Day.

Voters who choose to vote by mail must postmark their mail ballots by Election Day, and the ballot must be received by the County Clerk’s Office no later than 5:00 PM on July 15 (the day after Election Day).

Voter Registration applications and vote by mail applications can be obtained at www.harrisvotes.com.