Elderly Texans living in nursing homes and other residential care facilities will test a new system of voting during the state’s constitutional election in November. But the law triggering that new system will vanish from the books shortly after voting wraps up — because the Legislature passed a bill that may have needed an extra round of proofreading. Local election administrators are now preparing to implement the overhaul for a single election before it’s scrapped. State law allows Texans with disabilities, those who are at least 65 years old or those who plan to be out of their home county during voting to request a mail-in ballot. Under House Bill 658, when residential care facilities request five or more absentee ballots, counties are required to send election judges — representing both major political parties — to deliver the ballots during early voting and oversee voting at those homes, providing assistance if necessary. Residents will vote this way rather than mailing in their ballots, and registered voters who hadn’t requested ballots can vote on-site.
Proponents of the new system touted it as a way to expand ballot access in such facilities and discourage facility staffers, political operatives or others from trying to manipulate residents’ votes, a well-documented threat surrounding such vulnerable voters.
… But county election administrators weren’t on board. They saw the overhaul as an unfunded mandate and said it would create a logistical nightmare inside care facilities — confusing longtime voters who are accustomed to mailing in their ballots and spurring questions about how to ensure residents who are registered to vote at a separate address from the care facility receive the correct ballot.
“I just think they wanted so badly to try to do something good that they just didn’t listen to the fact that this was not that great of an idea,” Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said of the bill’s backers.