Gov. Abbott must protect Texas voters by instituting universal vote-by-mail
Update (3/23/20): On March 20, Gov. Greg Abbott annnounced that he was postponing the May 26 primary election runoffs to July. Before his announcement, the Texas Democratic Party filed a lawsuit to expand vote-by-mail during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite postponing the runoffs, we still believe Gov. Greg Abbott should institute 100% vote-by-mail for the new July 14 date.
Nobody knows how long this crisis is going to continue and the state should do everything it can to protect Texans' health and safety. We have the chance, right now, to plan for the worst in the runoff elections by ensuring 100% vote-by-mail for everyone.
This week, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation allowing local governments to postpone their May 2 elections to November 3.
While this delay seems like a solution in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it may actually cause confusion and still put voters at risk. By leaving it up to local governments, some counties may choose to postpone their elections while others may not. Not only would this lead to mixed messaging about dates, but it would also mean any counties that don’t change their election dates would be putting voters at risk of exposure to coronavirus.
Additionally, we still have the May 26 primary runoffs. Fortunately, there is a solution to all of this that would not require postponing elections.
Texas needs 100% vote-by-mail.
All Texans should have safe, fair, and equal access to the ballot box, even if they can't physically get there.
And we already have the infrastructure! Currently, Texans who are 65 or older, sick or disabled, or living outside their county of residence have the option to vote by mail. Abbott has the power to expand this privilege to all voters, and for the sake of all Texans’ health and safety, he should.
We need 100% vote by mail for all Texas voters in order to protect us from this pandemic, while also ensuring our right to vote.
Many have already called on Abbott to implement universal vote-by-mail, including dozens of civil rights groups, State Rep. Sheryl Cole, and Congressional candidate Mike Siegel. State Representatives Celia Israel and Terry Canales, as well as Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa also sent letters to Abbott, urging him to take similar measures.
In addition to their efforts, other states have already set the standard by taking initiative and working to make voting by mail available to all voters. For example, Kansas Democrats announced that all registered Democrats in Kansas will automatically be mailed a ballot for the party's presidential primary.
Texas must follow these states’ lead in order to protect our elections, as well as Texans’ health and safety.