Letter to Governor Abbott, re: A Comprehensive Voting System for Texans

P.O. Box 603942
Dallas, Texas 75360

April 7, 2020

The Honorable Greg Abbott
Office of the Governor
State Insurance Building
1100 San Jacinto Austin, TX 78701.

Re: A Comprehensive Voting System for Texans

Dear Governor Abbott:
Via email to: greg.abbott@gov.texas.gov
Cc: Chief of Staff Luis Saenz luis.saenz@gov.texas.gov
General Counsel Jeff Oldham jeff.oldham@gov.texas.gov
Secretary of State ruth.hughs@gov.texas.gov

The task of administering elections during a pandemic is new territory but one that can be done in a manner that ensures all Texans stay healthy, and at the same time, ensures that everyone can register, cast a ballot, and have their vote counted. Planning ahead and taking action now is critical in achieving these goals.

Congress is providing additional funds to help states implement comprehensive changes that include protections for the health and safety of poll workers and voters, expanded registration options, expanded early voting to prevent lines and crowded polling places where people could be exposed to the virus, and vote-by-mail. No one method is a panacea on its own, one size does not fit all. In planning, comprehensive protections must be considered and appropriate steps must be taken to protect all Texans’ right to vote, cast their ballot without unnecessary barriers, and have their vote counted.

There has been a lot of talk about On-line Voter Registration, expanding Vote-by-Mail, and assuring germ free polling places as effective ways to protect Texans and their right to vote. These are good steps but these alone do not provide the comprehensive plan that is needed today. People with disabilities who rely on voting machines to cast a private and independent ballot may be disenfranchised if polling places are closed. Many voters who need language assistance, as required by Federal Law, would still need accommodations that are best handled in-person. Some voters are reluctant to cast their vote by mail

Providing adequate access to voters with all types of disabilities requires a broad range of options for ballot casting. Voters with disabilities self-select the voting method that is most accessible to their unique access needs. Many voters with disabilities prefer to cast their ballot at a polling place on Election Day, and every polling place in the U.S. is required to have at least one accessible voting device (equipped with earphones and other types of accommodation). Voters with disabilities who are unable to mark paper ballots without assistance rely on the accessible voting station to privately and independently cast their ballots, as required by federal law.

With these variables in mind and with the challenges the COVID-19 Virus is presenting to all citizens, we ask that you, as our Governor, develop and implement an emergency comprehensive voting system that will serve all Texans so they can exercise their Constitutional right to vote in a safe and secure manner. One size will not fit all but everyone must be represented.
We thank you for accepting the challenge of providing Texans with a comprehensive registration and voting system that serves all Texans, one that:

1. allows on-line Voter Registration,
2. expands Vote by Mail program, and
3. at the same time provides sanitized and safe polling places for those that want and need them, especially to accommodate Texans with disabilities.

As your constituents, we thank you so very much.

APAPA North Texas
Clean Elections Texas
Dallas Peace and Justice Center
Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square
LVEC (Latino Voter Empowerment Coalition)
March to the Polls
National Council of Jewish Women Greater Dallas Section
Public Citizen Texas office
SVEC (Student Voter Empowerment Coalition)
Texas Alliance for Retired Americans