Lubbock County prepares for election changes amid COVID-19 pandemic

Lubbock County prepares for election changes amid COVID-19 pandemic

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The July 14 primary runoff will be the first opportunity for in-person voting in Lubbock County. On Monday, County Commissioners approved the voting locations and the application for a grant to help offset costs incurred while adapting to changes brought about by the pandemic and implementing necessary safety procedures voters will encounter.

“What we are doing here in Lubbock County is making sure that everybody who wants to vote has the opportunity to vote and will be able to vote,” County Judge Curtis Parrish said.

The primary runoff election was postponed by Governor Greg Abbott in May, due to the outbreak of COVID-19. He then extended the early voting time period to begin on June 29. There will be no voting on July 3 or Independence Day.

Early voting and Election Day locations will look mostly the same in Lubbock County, including the use of The United Family stores during early voting. However, voters will find fewer machines in order to distance voters.

“We’re cutting back on equipment at our United locations and some of our other locations just to be able to help with a social distancing,” Election Administrator Dorothy Kennedy said. “The safety protocols that voters will need to follow, they will do a self-check of themselves to make sure they don’t have any of the COVID symptoms and, if they can, wear a mask to vote. We’ll have hand sanitation stations. We’re going to have somebody there to wipe the machines down. We’ve got gloves and different things that we’re putting into place for this [election], which will give us a good idea of where we need to go and what we need to do to be ready for October.”

Kennedy tells KCBD that Lubbock County is one of 20 counties out of the 254 in Texas selected to be on an advisory board for the Secretary of State. That board was put together for COVID-19 matters and because of the postponement of elections to November.

“We have been very appreciative to be a part of that because it’s helped us to get ready,” Kennedy said. “Also, we’ve offered some good ideas as well. We’ve been able to share and exchange information, plus working with the State to see and make sure that the things we’re doing are still in line with the election code.”

While most have voiced their intention to return to work, Kennedy said the Elections Office is looking for more poll workers to help with the increased number of tasks and to prepare for the possibility of additional polling locations in November.

The CARES Act passed by congress and signed into law in March provided $400 million in emergency funding for election security from COVID-19. That funding could be used to fund the additional poll workers in Lubbock County.

“It will be able to help us to do some training for a poll workers on how to keep a polling site disinfected and cleaned, also provide the things that voters would need or might want if they want to come in person and vote, like the gloves or the pencil for the eraser portion to use on the tablet, masks,” Kennedy said. “Those kinds of things will be available if they didn’t bring theirs.”

The funding would also help with any increased cost to conducting the election if more mail-in ballots are used. While the issue is still under review in the court system, Texas only allows people to vote by mail if they are 65 years or older, disabled, out of their county for the duration of the election or incarcerated. Kennedy told KCBD there has been an increase in phone calls to the Elections Office inquiring about mail ballots.

“Temporary workers in the office would be getting mail packets ready and put together and sent out and bringing them back in,” Kennedy said. “It may cause us to need a larger signature verification and early voting ballot board. So, we would use that [funding] to pay for those extra people. Anything that’s directly related, that is different because of COVID, then that’s what that CARES money will go for.”

The last day to register to vote for the July 14 election is June 15. The last day to apply for a ballot by mail is July 2.

Information on how to register or apply can be found at votelubbock.org.

For information on becoming a poll worker, contact the Lubbock County Elections Office at 806-775-1338.

To view the Health Protocols for Voters from the Secretary of State, click here.

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