October 1, 2020 | Austin, Texas
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Proclamation

TO ALL TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME:

WHEREAS, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, issued a disaster proclamation on March 13, 2020, certifying under Section 418.014 of the Texas Government Code that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) poses an imminent threat of disaster for all counties in the State of Texas; and

WHEREAS, in each subsequent month effective through today, I have renewed the disaster declaration for all Texas counties; and

WHEREAS, the Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, Dr. John Hellerstedt, has determined that COVID-19 continues to represent a public health disaster within the meaning of Chapter 81 of the Texas Health and Safety Code; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to legislative authorization under Chapter 418 of the Texas Government Code, I have issued executive orders, proclamations, and suspensions of Texas laws in response to the COVID-19 disaster, aimed at using the least restrictive means available to protect the health and safety of Texans and ensure an effective response to this disaster; and

WHEREAS, on July 27, 2020, I issued a proclamation suspending certain provisions of the Texas Election Code to provide additional time for early voting and to provide additional time in which a voter can deliver a marked mail ballot in person to the early voting clerk’s office, such that this may be done prior to and including on election day; and

WHEREAS, the suspension of the limitation on the in-person delivery of marked mail ballots, as made in the July 27, 2020 proclamation, merely increased the amount of time for an eligible voter to return a marked mail ballot in person to the early voting clerk’s office and did not suspend or otherwise affect the other applicable requirements that a voter must comply with when returning a marked mail ballot, including presenting an acceptable form of identification described by Section 63.0101 of the Election Code; and

WHEREAS, an amendment to the suspension of the limitation on the in-person delivery of marked mail ballots, as made in the July 27, 2020 proclamation, is appropriate to add ballot security protocols for when a voter returns a marked mail ballot to the early voting clerk’s office; and

WHEREAS, Section 41.001(a) of the Texas Election Code provides that a general or special election in this state shall be held on a uniform election date, and the next uniform election date is occurring on November 3, 2020; and

WHEREAS, I issued a proclamation on March 18, 2020, suspending Sections 41.0052(a) and (b) of the Texas Election Code and Section 49.103 of the Texas Water Code to the extent necessary to allow political subdivisions that would otherwise have held elections on May 2, 2020, to move their general and special elections for 2020 only to the November 3, 2020 uniform election date; and

WHEREAS, Texas law provides that eligible voters have a right to cast a vote in person; and

WHEREAS, as counties across Texas prepare for the upcoming elections on November 3, 2020, and establish procedures for eligible voters to exercise their right to vote in person, it is necessary that election officials implement health protocols to conduct elections safely and to protect election workers and voters; and

WHEREAS, in order to ensure that elections proceed efficiently and safely when Texans go to the polls to cast a vote in person during early voting or on election day for the November 3, 2020 elections, it is necessary to increase the number of days in which polling locations will be open during the early voting period, such that election officials can implement appropriate social distancing and safe hygiene practices; and

WHEREAS, Section 85.001(a) of the Texas Election Code provides that the period for early voting by personal appearance begins 17 days before election day; and

WHEREAS, Section 86.006(a-1) of the Texas Election Code provides that a voter may deliver a marked mail ballot in person to the early voting clerk’s office while the polls are open on election day; and

WHEREAS, in consultation with the Texas Secretary of State, it has become apparent that for the November 3, 2020 elections, strict compliance with the statutory requirements in Sections 85.001(a) and 86.006(a-1) of the Texas Election Code would prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the COVID-19 disaster, and that providing additional time for early voting will provide Texans greater safety while voting in person; and

WHEREAS, in the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, the legislature charged the governor with the responsibility “for meeting … the dangers to the state and people presented by disasters” under Section 418.011 of the Texas Government Code, and expressly granted the governor broad authority to fulfill that responsibility; and

WHEREAS, under Section 418.012, the “governor may issue executive orders hav[ing] the force and effect of law;” and

WHEREAS, pursuant to Section 418.016 of the Texas Government Code, the legislature has expressly authorized the governor to suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business or the orders or rules of a state agency if strict compliance with the provisions, orders, or rules would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster; and

WHEREAS, under Section 418.018(c), the “governor may control ingress and egress to and from a disaster area and the movement of persons and the occupancy of premises in the area;”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GREG ABBOTT, Governor of Texas, under the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the State of Texas, do hereby suspend Section 85.001(a) of the Texas Election Code to the extent necessary to require that, for any election ordered or authorized to occur on November 3, 2020, early voting by personal appearance shall begin on Tuesday, October 13, 2020, and shall continue through the fourth day before election day. 

I further suspend Section 86.006(a-1) of the Texas Election Code, for any election ordered or authorized to occur on November 3, 2020, to the extent necessary to allow a voter to deliver a marked mail ballot in person to the early voting clerk’s office prior to and including on election day; provided, however, that beginning on October 2, 2020, this suspension applies only when:

(1) the voter delivers the marked mail ballot at a single early voting clerk’s office location that is publicly designated by the early voting clerk for the return of marked mail ballots under Section 86.006(a-1) and this suspension; and

(2) the early voting clerk allows poll watchers the opportunity to observe any activity conducted at the early voting clerk’s office location related to the in-person delivery of a marked mail ballot pursuant to Section 86.006(a-1) and this suspension, including the presentation of an acceptable form of identification described by Section 63.0101 of the Election Code by the voter. 

Any poll watchers operating under this suspension must comply with the requirements of Chapter 33 of the Election Code as if they were serving at an early voting polling place, as applicable to observing the in-person delivery of a marked mail ballot pursuant to Section 86.006(a-1) and this suspension.

Any marked mail ballot delivered in person to the early voting clerk’s office prior to October 2, 2020, shall remain subject to the July 27, 2020 proclamation. 

The Secretary of State shall take notice of this proclamation and shall transmit a copy of this order immediately to every County Judge of this state and all appropriate writs will be issued and all proper proceedings will be followed to the end that said elections may be held and their results proclaimed in accordance with law.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereto signed my name and have officially caused the Seal of State to be affixed at my office in the City of Austin, Texas, this the 1st day of October, 2020.

View the proclamation 

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Author: Editor
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