By Megan Wehring
HAYS COUNTY – With early voting for the Nov. 3 election quickly approaching, Hays County officials anticipate an increase in mail-in ballots while continuing to make preparations to adhere to safety guidelines at polling locations.
Election officials will position the polling machines six feet apart, while providing markers to ensure that voters are maintaining social distancing within the election center. Voters are also recommended to wear face coverings.
Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson said there will be about 300 election workers total, similar to previous years, with additional staff on standby in the case a person is sick.
“We are also in constant contact with our poll workers and we are staffing them very robustly so that if people do get sick, we’ll still have plenty of people to work,” Anderson said.
While there is a requirement of up to three workers at each polling place, Anderson said there will be more staff this year at each location to maintain safety protocols.
“In a presidential (election year) when we know it’s going to be very busy, we would always have more,” Anderson said. “We do have more scheduled that can try to assist with social distancing and they can try to assist with sanitizing the polling location.”
Poll workers typically undergo in-person training. This year’s election judges, alternate judges and early voting team leaders will still be training in person. Due to proper social distancing, Anderson stated that some election staff members will complete an online video training.
Anderson said participating in an election as a poll worker is a huge undertaking.
“When you are a poll worker you’re in charge, for the day anyway, of a business basically,” Anderson said. “… a business of allowing people to vote. They will check in voters in a polling location. They will handle different situations that may arise in a polling location.”
The county has almost reached the projected 10,000 ballots that will be mailed out this year. In 2018, there were approximately 7,000 mail-in ballots. Anderson said voting by mail has continued to increase in popularity over the years.
“There is a heightened awareness that you can vote by mail and what those qualifications are, so I think that’s intriguing people,” Anderson said. “Some of our over 65 (year old voters), which is a large population of our mail ballot voters, are worried to go out right now because they don’t want to be vulnerable to COVID.”
Hays County residents can qualify to request to receive a ballot by mail if they are 65 or older, disabled, confined to jail or expected to be out of the county for early voting or on Election Day.
Anderson stated that 44.49% voted early in the 2016 presidential election and 14.76% voted on Election Day. Anderson also anticipates that it will be the same this year for more people to vote during the early voting period that runs from Oct. 13 to Oct. 30.
“I think if people take advantage of that early voting time, that will keep people from standing in line on election day,” Anderson said. “That will help us produce early voting and election day results more efficiently on election night.”
Voters are required to bring some form of photo identification with them for early voting or on Election Day. Some acceptable forms of photo ID include a Texas drivers license, personal ID card, election ID certificate or U.S. passport.