Voter outreach organizations like The League of Women Voters are at work informing Hays County citizens on what they need to know ahead of what is expected to be a highly contentious election.
By explaining voting safety procedures at the polls, voter registration and addressing issues with mail-in ballots, The League of Women Voters is hoping to set the stage for both a safe and successful voter turnout.
Early voting was extended after Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order July 27 and will now take place Oct. 13-30. The schedule and list of polling locations can be viewed on Hays County's official website.
Polling places will enforce health protocols that limit contact among voters and ensure voter safety. Phyllis Finnemore, a board director for the League of Women Voters and a poll worker who worked during the primary elections, says polling offices effectively used universal precautions to decrease the possibility of COVID-19 transmission.
“When we worked the primary, we had a plastic glove for people, so that when they signed in their hand was covered and then they can wear that glove to the voting machine,” Finnemore said. "If they needed to handle anything on the voting machine, they had their gloves, and then they could dump that while exiting."
Finnemore says polling stations will have hand sanitizer, extra masks and markers reminding people to social distance.
"The governor made it that masks aren’t required at the polls. But, we appreciate it being poll workers because we come in contact with a lot of folks just like clergy clerks, or you know, food service workers. If people will wear a mask it protects us, as well as themselves," Finnemore said.
The League of Women Voters is reaching out to the San Marcos community to instruct community members on how to vote and apply for absentee ballots.
The league partnered with Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos for the Get Out the Vote Project, which will continue until Nov. 3. Teresa Ravet, a member of the League of Women Voters, is facilitating the project. She says a large part of the initiative is to educate.
"With that mission of educating voters, informing them and equipping them with the tools to participate, along with our priority of doing diversity, equity and inclusion work, we were very strategic in doing collaborations, forming partnerships and relationships with other area organizations, such as Centro Cultural," Ravet said.
The campaign involves interns reaching out to young adults and racial minorities to encourage them to be more involved in the election process, as well as provide information on how to vote at the polls or by mail.
Ravet says they chose to target these demographics due to the results of nationwide studies, stating the importance of facilitating ballot help when a desire to vote exists. However, finding these individuals can be a challenge.
“Both African American and Latino voters are split 50/50 on whether they plan to vote by mail or in person,” Ravet said. “Both of these communities are saying, 'we're gonna vote, we want to vote, but I still need more information or more education on the vote by mail.'”
Willow Adkins, a freshman and biology major at Texas State, expressed concern over in-person voting during a pandemic, believing mail-in voting may be a safer alternative.
“[In-person voting] is an uncomfortable situation, and having to be around all these people on Election Day could be [dangerous]," Adkins said.
Other students, such as Julian Gonzalez, a senior and education major, feel safe voting in-person and do not plan to apply for a mail-in ballot.
“Maybe if you feel sick don't go [vote in person], but I think it's going to be fine," Gonzalez said. "Hopefully people just turn up on the day and vote."
Trey Fischer, a junior and geography major, has found the process of requesting ballots difficult.
“I was planning to vote by mail,” Fischer said. “But, seeing I requested my ballot like three weeks ago, and I haven't heard anything back, I might be voting in-person.”
Jennifer Anderson, Hays County elections administrator and voter registrar, says there are many ways a citizen can choose to vote, and they should take advantage of their options while attempting to register before the Oct. 5 deadline.
“The only caution I would put out there for voters is that there are a lot of people utilizing all of our options this year for voting, so I wouldn’t wait to the last minute to apply or send your ballot," Anderson said.