WACO, Texas – The City of Waco is not at this time postponing the May 2 Election.
The city is continually assessing the COVID-19 situation, and if they believe they cannot conduct a safe and fair election on May 2, it will be postponed.
Here are a few of the measures the city is planning to take to make the elections safe, according to a press release sent Thursday afternoon:
· The voting centers will be large rooms like the Waco Convention Center, Waco community centers, and school gyms and cafeterias, where we can ensure there is more than enough room to provide adequate social distancing between voting machines, between voters, and between poll workers and election judges;
· We will discourage our normal workers and election judges who are over 65 from working this election – we will recruit and train others who are not at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 to work as poll workers and election judges – we have plenty of time to do this and will be beginning this process immediately.
· We will develop a safe and sanitary method of verifying voter IDs and distributing voting codes.
· We will sanitize each machine after each voter casts his or her vote on that machine.
· We urge anyone who is 65 years of age or older, or who has a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at a polling place without a likelihood of injuring the voter’s health, to vote by mail. Any person who is at a high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should vote by mail. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following people are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19:
• People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
• Other high-risk conditions could include:
• People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
• People who have serious heart conditions
• People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment
• People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk.
To download the application, you can go to the city’s website and click on the Elections Link under the Latest News and Information.
Here are the links:
In Section 5 of the application, if you are 65 years of age or older, you should check that box; if you are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, you should check the Disability box. Your vote by mail application must be received (not postmarked) by the election administrator no later than April 20.
By taking these measures, we will create an environment that is as safe or safer than going to the grocery store, visiting a bank, or picking up to-go food.
The only option Governor Abbott has offered is postponing until November 3. There are a number of concerns about that, not the least of which being the uncertainty about whether the COVID-19 virus may come back in the fall and potentially be worse than it is on May 2. We are going to formally request that Governor Abbott allow us to postpone the election until July 14, the date of the postponed primary runoff election.
It is important that we continue to have elections and transition leaders, as long as we can do so in a safe and fair manner, so that our City can move forward with its business of serving our citizens.
Source: City of Waco
Local candidates are finding the decision puzzling. Waco ISD Board of Trustees candidate Hope Balfa-Mustakim thinks it is a more serious situation than the city might realize.
“For me, it was a direct contradiction to then expect people to come out in twenty five days to a public space where there’s hundreds of other people and put election workers at risk, put community members at risk,” Balfa-Mustakim said. “It feels like we’re not allowing people who are maybe immune-suppressed or elderly to come out and vote and to do so without risking their safety.”
She also thinks the decision is disrespectful to the voters of Waco.
“I feel like this, whether they realize it or not, is an act of voter suppression by definition because we’re discouraging people from coming out in public,” Balfa-Mustakim said. “We’re discouraging them to come into these public spaces so it doesn’t really allow for a fair and equitable election to have it at a time where people are afraid to come out into these spaces and be infected.”
Mayoral hopeful David Morrow agrees that some voters will be in an unwinnable position.
“It’s my responsibility as an American to participate in a democracy, however, people have to say ‘well gosh if I get sick with that I’m gonna be in the hospital for a month’ and it’s really bad and they can die,” Morrow said. “It’s a hard choice.”
The city is urging people to use the mail-in ballots if they are physically unable to go to the polls.