At a recent virtual meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Courts, county staff briefed commissioners on preparations needed for upcoming elections, including a possible expansion of mail-in voting due to social distancing measures related to the coronavirus pandemic. County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said at a May 5 meeting that preparatory efforts could require an overhaul of staffing procedures and a financial investment.

“In order for us to be able to process a very much more used by-mail voting system, we’re going to need to purchase some additional equipment,” DeBeauvoir said, pointing to the need for automatic mailing resources as well as personal protective equipment for in-person staff and volunteers that could cost around $138,000.

DeBeauvoir observed that a number of voting day appointees of the Democrat and Republican parties that work on primary days fall into a vulnerable age range, and may need to be reassigned to different duties while COVID-19 concerns persist, working in by-mail processing instead of voting booths. To compensate, she said staff were actively recruiting volunteers and election day staff who were younger or less vulnerable to assist during upcoming elections in July and November.

“We’re doing everything creative we can think of to bring in more new people,” DeBeauvoir said.

According to DeBeauvoir, early voting for July elections was a particular point of concern for Travis County due to the loss of an early voting location, ACC Highland Mall. Reduced capacity for early voting, she said, could make expanded mail-in voting options necessary.