How will the pandemic affect our upcoming runoff elections?

Important election dates to remember
Posted at 3:11 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 21:33:25-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Early voting begins in about a month for primary runoff elections.

Just days ago, state election officials issued guidance on how voting will be done in a post-pandemic political cycle.

Local Democrats and Republicans both have races in July’s primary runoff, which is Texas’ first election since the pandemic started. While officials expect a low turnout, safety is a concern.

“It’s not a matter of how many voters, but the voting process,” said Nueces County Democratic Parity Chair Coretta Graham.

New state guidelines ask voters to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms before coming to the polls. Anyone showing symptoms can ask for curbside voting. Disinfecting hands before and after voting is recommended, as is wearing a cloth face mask. Voters should also bring a pen, pencil or stylus to avoid directly touching screens.

Local officials from both parties say they’ll do their part to keep the polls as safe as possible.

“We’ll have them wear masks and have plenty of disinfectant,” said former Nueces County Republican Party Chair Michael Bergsma. “Those two things should handle most of the problems.”

There’s also the question of who will work the polls.

“Forty percent of our election workers are 65 and older, at least 50% of them have chosen to not necessarily take the risk,” said Graham.

Voters over 65, and other at high risk can request a mail in ballot for the general election, something Democrats want expanded.

“There are states now that vote by mail and have been voting by mail for years,” said Graham. “Our military votes by mail, so it’s not a new concept.”

This week the state Supreme Court ruled a lack of COVID-19 immunity wasn’t grounds for a mail in ballot. That case is now headed for federal courts.

The early voting period will run from June 29-July 10 with Election Day set for July 14.

There are two Republican primary runoffs are on the local ballot.

The candidates in the Nueces County Precinct 2 constable's race are incumbent Mitchell Clark and Jason McCahan.

The Precinct 4 constable's race will also be on the runoff ballot with Monty Allen challenging incumbent Robert Sherwood.