Travis County will have three drive-thru locations for voters to mail in ballots for the November election. At drive-thru locations, voters can hand-deliver their ballots to the business office of the county clerk, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said.
According to the Texas Secretary of State’s website, those eligible to vote by mail-in ballot must be either disabled, 65 or older, out of the county during early voting and on Election Day or be in jail. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Texas Democratic Party’s effort to expand the eligibility to all Texans who wish to vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the Supreme Court’s dismissal, DeBeauvoir said voters can request a mail-in ballot based on health concerns of themselves or people in their household based on the Texas Supreme Court ruling in May. Election officials do not need to check disability claims, DeBeauvoir said.
“Voters have the right and prerogative to make their own determination about whether they qualify for a ballot by mail under the disability categories,” DeBeauvoir said. “This is a plain language reading of what the law says.”
DeBeauvoir said the drive-thrus will hopefully lessen the workload of the U.S. Postal Service in light of the decommissioning of four sorting machines and an automated flat sorting machine in Austin specifically used for mail-in ballots.
William Moody, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers for Local Branch 181, said the decommissioned machines previously serviced the Greater Austin metropolitan area and surrounding cities.
“One of those letter sorting machines can sort 30,000 letters an hour … so there’s a lot of mail that's not being sorted,” Moody said.
Mike Siegel, Democratic candidate running for Congress in Texas’ 10th Congressional District, said removing the sorting machines is an attack on the Postal Service and its workers.
“It's an essential public good and a public service,” Siegel said. “They actually helped unite the country in a way that no other service does.”
Incumbent Rep. Michael McCaul, R-TX-10, voted in August on a $25 billion House bill to support the Postal Service and stop changes that would slow mail delivery services.
“This pandemic has highlighted the importance of mail when so many individuals are unable or feel unsafe leaving their homes,” McCaul said to the Austin American-Statesman.
According to a poll from the Texas Politics Project, 52% of Democratic voters would choose to vote by mail, versus 13% of Republican voters. 54% of Republican voters would choose to cast their ballot during early in-person voting.
“(The poll) exhibits the overwhelming impact of partisanship on perceptions of the voting process,” said Joshua Blank, Texas Politics Project research director. “The partisans of both sides are employed to either try to expand access … (or) embrace the status quo.”
The deadline for a mail-in ballot to be mailed and received is Oct. 23, and DeBeauvoir said people must request a ballot as soon as possible for their request to be processed in time.
“You can safely vote in-person, you can vote by mail — don't let anybody take your options away from you,” DeBeauvoir said.