By Ari Snider
Though it is still early October, the November elections are already getting underway — mail-in ballots are being sent out, and early in-person voting begins Oct. 13.
Election officials in West Texas, like their counterparts across the country, are preparing for an election altered by an expected surge in turnout and, of course, the coronavirus pandemic. Presidio County’s elections clerk, Mayra Del Bosque, says voters can expect a few visible changes at polling locations this year.
First off, face masks will be available at polling sites for anyone not wearing one.
“We will provide facemasks,” Del Bosque said. “If you are not wearing one we will ask you to wear one.”
Even though wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged, Del Bosque added that voters will not be turned away for refusing to put one on. Poll workers will also disinfect commonly touched surfaces after each voter casts a ballot, and hand sanitizer will be available.
Perhaps the biggest change facing local elections administrators this year: only two voters will be allowed inside polling locations at once, another measure against possible transmission of the virus.
Del Bosque says this safety measure will likely lead to longer lines.
“It’s just something that we will have to work through,” she said. “We all want to make sure that we all stay safe.”
Election Day is on Nov. 3, but Texans have a couple options to cast a ballot beforehand. Early in-person voting begins Oct. 13, and will be available at the County Annex building in Presidio and the USO building in Marfa.
Those who qualify may also vote by mail. To be eligible, you must be 65 years or older, disabled, out of the county on Election Day and during the early voting period, or confined to a jail but otherwise eligible to vote. Presidio election officials say approximately 300 residents have requested mail-in ballots so far–an increase in years past.
Use this link to request an absentee ballot.
Unlike other Texas counties, Presidio does not have a drop-off location for voters to return mail ballots in person, but residents are allowed to hand deliver their mail ballots at the Presidio County Courthouse.
Even though nationwide delays at the Postal Service made headlines this summer and raised concerns about mail-in voting, Del Bosque does not anticipate any delays in delivering and receiving absentee ballots, mainly because Presidio County has a relatively small population.
Still, she encourages voters to mail their ballots sooner rather than later.
“We do ask our voters to send them as soon as possible,” she said.
Mail ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by the county by Nov. 4 at 5pm.
Finally, Del Bosque says she expects to announce county results no later than usual. That’s notable because many states and counties across the country have warned that tallying may take longer this year due to a surge of mail-in ballots.
She says she expects to have results sometime after midnight on election night.
For more voting information, check out Marfa Public Radio’s Voting Guide.