(Bizoo_n/Adobe)

Early voting for the July 14 primary runoff election, which includes the high-profile contest to determine which Democrat will face off against Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in November, begins Monday.


The slate also includes congressional races and a number of local offices that were not settled during the regular primary, as well as the special election to fill former state Sen. Kirk Watson's seat. (KUT has a full list of candidates.)

The runoff was supposed to take place last month but was postponed due to the coronavirus.

Rescheduled primary runoff elections do not typically see high voter turnout, but the July 14 contest may be the exception, if the mail-in ballot totals are any indication.

In-person voting

Travis County has set up 20 polling locations for early voting and 100 for election day. Both Travis County and Williamson County are maintaining live maps so voters can see what kind of lines are at each location before they go.

Officials are urging people to wear face masks and keep their distance from each other.

Mail-in voting

The Travis County clerk has received more than 28,000 applications for mail-in ballots so far, which approaches the record set in the 2016 presidential election, and the deadline to apply is still a few days away.

Applications must be received by July 2.

Texas only allows mail-in ballots in specific, limited cases: for those over 65, with a disability, out of town during an election, or in jail.

A flurry of recent lawsuits have attempted to expand voting by mail in light of the pandemic, but judges so far have ruled that fear of contracting the virus is not a valid reason to apply.

But while the rulings stipulate voters cannot claim fear of contracting the coronavirus as a disability—defined by the state election code as a "sickness of physical condition" that could injure the voter's health should she vote in person—when applying for a mail-in ballot, it also makes clear that election officials can't question what that disability is.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir wrote in a May 21 Facebook post that her office "has no legal authority to administratively require voters to verify their disability at the time the application is submitted."

In response to a question asking if fear of COVID qualifies as a disability, DeBeauvoir explained: "A voter can take into consideration aspects of their health and their health history that are physical conditions in deciding whether, under the circumstances, to apply to vote by mail because of disability."

DeBeauvoir said her office has added temporary staff and additional scanning equipment to process the applications and mail out ballots in time.

(Austonia staff)

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