November election will cost Travis County $660,000 more than expected

A photo of a mailbox
Travis County plans to offer residents new ways to submit mail-in ballots this year. (Courtesy Pexels)

Travis County plans to offer residents new ways to submit mail-in ballots this year. (Courtesy Pexels)

The Travis County Clerk's Office is requesting additional funding for this November's presidential election as the cost of innovations, including drive-thru submission of mail-in ballots, builds.

As the Travis County Commissioners Court reviews the proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-21 this week, they will consider a request from the clerk’s office that includes $660,087 more than originally planned.

In an effort to accommodate a projected 100,000 mail-in ballots in the county during a time when some have questioned the capacity of the U.S. Postal Service, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir has announced plans for three drive-thru ballot drops in downtown Austin near the courthouse. These additions will push the election budget past the county’s originally planned $4.82 million to about $5.48 million.

“I’ve really tried for [the budget] to be as lean as we can possibly make it and still handle some of these problems that have developed recently,” DeBeauvoir said.

The drive-thru locations will cost the county $287,791, and additional staffing to process the influx of mail-in ballots will cost the county $360,750. The clerk also plans to extend hours at “mega sites” for the last three days of early voting, which will cost $11,546.


DeBeauvoir agreed with Commissioner Brigid Shea that these additional costs are a result of “confusion and doubt sown at the federal level” related to slowdowns at the USPS, which have forced her staff to make provisions for a mail-in ballot system that is being threatened.

“We’re trying to make up for the damage done,” DeBeauvoir said.

Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, the court’s lone Republican, cautioned his colleagues from ascribing “nefarious” motives to his party and said he did not believe any federal officials had taken “extraordinary measures” to complicate the mail-in voting process.

“I want to take exception a little bit with what seems to be partisan issues,” Daugherty said. “I think that we can pull off this election without there being constant turmoil and both sides throwing things at each other. It’s not just a one-sided deal.”

Daugherty will retire this year; his seat is up for election in November.

However, Commissioner Jeff Travillion said he found it personally important to call out potential voter suppression issues, especially as a member of a Black community that has not always had the privilege to vote.

“This is sacred to my community, and all I’m saying is: Let’s take every effort that we can to make all of those who want to participate have the opportunity to do so,” he said.
By Olivia Aldridge

Multi-Platform Journalist

Olivia hosts and produces Community Impact Newspaper's podcasts, The Austin Breakdown, The Houston Breakdown and The DFW Breakdown. She launched the podcasts after nearly three years as a reporter for the newspaper, covering public health, business, development and Travis County government for the Central Austin edition. Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas.