The League of Women Voters had its say at the Commissioners Court Public Hearing last Friday, August 14.
Ryan Cox of the Texas Civil Rights Project read the League's testimony at the hearing, as the risk of exposure to COVID-19 precluded the authors of the testimony—League president Madhu Sridhar and Voter Service vice president Glenda Wolin—from appearing in person.
The testimony addressed Commissioner Rodriguez's Resolution of Support urging the Elections Administrator to implement specific measures to ensure all eligible voters can vote safely and securely in the November 2020 General Election.
LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF THE SAN ANTONIO AREA
COMMISSIONERS COURT PUBLIC HEARING
10:00 AM Friday, August 14, 2020
This testimony has been prepared by the League of Women Voters of the San Antonio Area. We appreciate the opportunity to submit the testimony today.
Elections in November will be held in an unprecedented condition due to the pandemic. Every effort, therefore, should be made to make sure that our elections are safe and our voting rights secure. The League supports election initiatives that facilitate citizen participation in safe conditions, and voter convenience to help increase voter turnout. Voters should not have to choose between their health and their right to vote.
Commissioner Rodriguez has put forward for the general election suggestions for improving on the runoff election’s safety protocols – a necessity because the turnout is expected to be massively bigger than it was for the runoff. There are, however, some areas where there is the need for caution so the result remains as intended.
The mega-centers can be a useful addition, allowing many voters to maintain social distancing and reducing lines in neighborhood vote centers. However, adding the mega-centers must not mean eliminating other vote centers, especially in low income and minority neighborhoods where voters rely largely on public transportation. A voter should not have to take multiple buses and increase risk exposure to get to the nearest place to vote. We need to be mindful of ensuring equal access to voting for ALL citizens and give ALL voters a voice in the political system.
It is also imperative to create a reservoir of trained election workers in order to guarantee all vote centers remain open. Every effort should be made to recruit and train more new poll workers to avoid glitches that arose during the runoff, when some vote centers were unable to open at all and others were forced to remain closed at the last minute when poll workers canceled out of fear of the coronavirus.
The Elections Department should send mail ballot applications with prepaid return postage to all Bexar County voters over age 65. Sending mail ballots should be the responsibility of the County, and not political parties, to make sure they reach all registered voters over age 65. The League has received many more inquiries recently regarding how to obtain a mail ballot. Many seniors do not want to go out to buy stamps and risk exposure to COVID-19, or they can’t afford it, or they lack transportation.
For these initiatives to work, it is critical that an aggressive voter education campaign is done and the Election Department’s website include safe voting options. This information also needs to reach across digital divide through mailed information. Done with care, the suggestions put forth today can make voting in the general election safer and improve turnout – a goal we can all agree is worthy.
Madhu Sridhar Glenda Wolin
President Vice President of Voter Service