II. Follow Up on the News
Last week we took a look at how Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were impacting elections officials in Texas and in Florida and other East Coast states.
We’ll give our friends on the East Coast a bit more time to assess the damage and the lights turned back on before we follow-up with them, but we did hear from Harris County, Texas and how they weathered Hurricane Harvey.
Fortunately, the county experienced no flooding at its elections warehouse or the county clerk’s office itself, but two branch offices are closed indefinitely.
“Overall, the County Clerk Office capacity to serve the public remains strong,” said Hector DeLeon, spokesman for the clerk’s office.
While the county clerk’s office and elections warehouse were spared, the same cannot be said for the county’s voting sites.
“The availability of six of forty-six early voting locations is undetermined,” DeLeon said. “An assessment of the availability of Election Day polling locations is ongoing.”
The secretary of state’s office provided guidance for assisting displaced voters:
- If a voter is able to return to their home, they may vote as usual in their county polling place. We realize that this is not possible for everyone affected by the storm, but suggest that voters check with their county, via phone or online, for the latest local information regarding polling places and early voting.
- A voter may apply for a ballot by mail from their home county. Voters wishing to vote by mail must submit an application for ballot by mail to their county election office; the application must be received no later than Friday, October 27, 2017. On the application, the voter must indicate that they will be out of their home county during early voting and on election day. Voters need to provide a mailing address for the ballot which is outside of their home Texas county.
- A voter may register to vote in their new county of residence. Voters in Texas must be registered to vote in the county that they consider their permanent residence or home. If a voter relocated to another county before or after the storm and has decided to stay in their new county, they may register to vote in their new county. Voters in this situation must submit a new voter registration application in their new county of residence no later than October 10, 2017 in order to vote in the November election. If a voter is not sure when they will return to their home county, but does intend to return, they must vote in their home county, either in person or by mail, and should not register to vote in the county where they are temporarily residing while evacuated.
- A voter may vote a limited ballot. Voters may also wish to vote a “limited ballot.” During the early voting period, October 23 – November 3, a voter can vote a limited ballot at the main early voting polling place in their new county. The ballot will feature all races or propositions which the new county and home county ballots have in common. For instance, a limited ballot anywhere in Texas will include the constitutional amendment election. Voting a limited ballot in the new county has the effect of registering the voter in the new county. A limited ballot is a good option for anyone who missed the registration deadline for a new county. provide displaced voters In Harris County, the vast majority of voters cast ballots during the twelve day Early Voting Period because all voters may vote at any one of the early voting locations.