East Texas elections administrators say most changes related to the state’s new elections law will be “behind the scenes” and shouldn’t have a direct effect on voters as they step up to the polls next March.
“The majority of (Senate Bill 1) will not affect the voters but the election officials behind the scenes,” said Smith County Elections Administrator Michelle Allcon. “I believe the elections conducted will go smoothly. They will be secure, accurate, legal and transparent.”
Gregg County Elections Administrator Jennifer Briggs said the main change voters will see is in regards to mail-in ballots. Verbiage has been added for residents who have a disability.
If the disability box on a mail-in ballot is checked, voters will need to affirm the statement defined in the Texas Election Code that states, “I affirm that I have a sickness or physical condition that prevents me from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or injuring my health.”
Under the new law — which officially goes into effect Dec. 2 but won’t have a real impact until the March primaries — voters can request to vote by mail if they are expected to give birth within three weeks before or after the election. Voters 65 or older, and those out of the county/traveling during elections, can still request mail-in ballots.
Voters submitting mail-in ballot applications also can expect the forms to have changed, Briggs said. They look completely different, and the font is much smaller.
“After the new applications for ballot by mail have been released by the Secretary of State, voters should take the time to read that application,” Allcon said. “There are some changes in what information the voter provides that differs from the current application.”
Elections officials said COVID-19 precautions used in some parts of the state in the November 2020 election, such as drive-thru voting and the ability for voters to drop off a mail-in ballot, no longer will be allowed.
Briggs said one major change behind the scenes is live streaming of paper ballots being counted. That provision applies to counties with 100,000 or more residents. She added that depending on the size of the county, an officer will be stationed by the ballots to ensure their integrity.
“I think for the most part for our voters themselves, they’re not going to see anything majorly changing because a lot of it is on the backside,” Briggs said.
The new elections law won’t be in effect for the Nov. 2 Texas constitutional amendment election.
During the last presidential elections in Gregg County, Briggs said turnout was about 65% compared with a typical turnout for a constitutional amendment election of 2%.
“It is very important that registered voters vote in these constitutional amendment elections,” she said.
For more information about voting in Gregg County, visit www.gregg countyvotes.com.