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Central Texas Local News | kcentv.com

Do you plan to vote by mail? | What you need to know

There have been a few changes to voting rules this election due to COVID-19 but they may not be as helpful as you'd think.

MCLENNAN COUNTY, Texas — As COVID-19 continues to be a threat across Texas counties, many people may look to voting by mail or absentee voting to stay safe. Unfortunately, recent changes to voting rules don't actually expand eligibility to vote by mail at all.

McLennan County Election Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe told 6 News Tuesday there have only been two changes to voting rules this year. First, early voting has been extended to three weeks instead of two. Second, people who vote by mail may bring their ballot directly to a county election officer after filling it out. Wolfe also said that the criteria for who can vote by absentee ballot remains unchanged. 

Currently, there are four situations in which a Texas resident can vote absentee. Those include:

  • The resident is 65 or older.
  • The resident has a disability. 
  • The resident will be out of town during the election, in which case the ballot must be mailed to a location outside the county. 
  • The resident is in jail. 

Van Wolfe said it's possible some voters will select the disability option to stay away from the polls, but in reality, there is no exception for people who want to stay safe from COVID-19, even if they have a medical condition that puts them at risk if they catch the virus. 

"It has to be a disability. Covid-19, because I'm afraid to come out because I'm afraid to be exposed is not a disability," Van Wolfe said. 

Van Wolfe said the state of Texas sets the voting rules so the only thing they can do for voters who don't qualify for absentee voting is to make the polling locations as safe as possible. 

"We'll be sanitizing, providing face masks for our workers, providing utensils as we did in the runoff and we hope voters will be wearing their masks," Van Wolfe said. 

Voters who are eligible to use absentee ballots will need to fill out an Application for Ballot by Mail and send it to their local county elections department. Find the application here

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story said you may not drop off absentee ballots to a county election office. That has been corrected to say you can.

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