The Tarrant County elections department will accept a grant of $1.76 million to conduct the upcoming elections in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The commissioners court voted on Tuesday to accept the grant.
The funds are part of the CARES Act allocation to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Texas received $24.5 million of the $400 million designated by Congress. The Texas Secretary of State’s office decided to distribute the money to counties for use in conducting elections.
The next election is a run-off on July 14 with early voting starting June 29.
Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks inquired about the use of the HAVA fund grant for mailing absentee voting applications to everyone.
“Do we have enough applications to mail one to everyone who might write in to ask for one with a COVID-related reason?” Brooks asked.
County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia said that absentee ballot applications could be sent to voters over the age of 65. “The only criteria we know without a doubt is age,” he explained, referring to the counsel given on conference calls with the secretary of state’s office.
In fact, he expects an increase in the volume of absentee ballots requested for upcoming elections.
“Political discussion aside, there are a lot of people over 65 at least who don’t use it who we think may be using it [during this election cycle],” Garcia told the commissioners.
He expects to use the HAVA funds for a high-speed envelope sorting machine that would make absentee ballot processing more efficient. He also expects to hire more people to review the ballots.
Around the state, there have been moves to try to increase the use of mail-in ballots for upcoming elections.
Harris County authorized the use of $12 million to provide mail-in ballots to voters. Dallas County passed a resolution encouraging voters to request a mail-in ballot if they were concerned about contracting coronavirus.
State and federal judges have ruled that the fear of coronavirus qualifies as a disability for purposes of requesting a mail-in ballot. However, those decisions are being appealed.
Opponents are often concerned about the possibility of voter fraud when mail-in ballot use is expanded.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.