[Democratic] Party Chairman Lloyd Criss told county commissioners during their Wednesday meeting that Hurricane Ike shouldn't disenfranchise 1,000 or so people living in a tent city at Alamo school or residents of senior-living communities on the island.
County Clerk Mary Ann Daigle said early voting starts Oct. 20, presenting a time crunch.
During early voting, county residents can cast ballots at any polling site, unlike the Nov. 4 election when voters have to visit their precinct.
"People are dislocated, and their cars might have been ruined," Criss said of the storm surge that inundated Galveston and left many without reliable transportation. "We can't let Hurricane Ike deprive citizens from voting."
Daigle said the polling sites have already been entered into the county's election database, and any added would mean the county would have to count mobile ballots by hand.
"Whoop-de-do," Criss said. "Count the ballots by hand. I don't care if it takes a week. Count the dang votes ... It won't cost that much more, and I don't think any person who holds an elected office has any higher responsibility than to provide the right to vote."
Daigle said she had no objection to hand counting votes.
"I need the commissioners to make up their mind which direction to go in," Daigle said.
A list of proposed sites is beneath the fold. In the meantime, here's the advice of the TDP for all Ike evacuees:
Many voters have been affected by Hurricane Ike. Some may not be able to return to their homes before Election Day and others may find that their local polling location has been damaged and they will need to vote elsewhere. There are options available to these voters which vary depending on the circumstance. Whether you are in an affected county or your county is sheltering Hurricane Ike evacuees, please be aware of the voting options available to you and help facilitate that information to others.
Option 1: VOTE EARLY IN PERSON - If the voter is in or near the county of their residence during Early Voting, they should try to vote then. All Early Voting locations are county-wide, so it won't matter if they are in the right precinct. Early Voting locations can be obtained from the County Early Voting Clerk, listed here.
Option 2: VOTE BY MAIL - If the voter is not going to be in their county of residence for the entire early voting period or on Election Day, absence from the county qualifies the voter to cast a ballot by mail. Voters who choose to exercise this option should make sure that they have somewhere to have their mail ballot sent that is outside their county of residence where either the voter will be for the remainder of the election or where there is someone who can forward it to them. Furthermore, we have recently confirmed with the Texas Secretary of State's office that a mail ballot can be forwarded to a specific address as long as there is an official forwarding request filed with the United States Postal Service (voters can file a formal forwarding request with the United States Postal Service by clicking here.
* Voters who are over 65 years of age or are disabled are automatically entitled to cast a ballot by mail. These voters may have the ballot sent to their residence, as opposed to being required to have it sent outside the county.
* An application for a ballot by mail can be found here.
Option 3: VOTE ON ELECTION DAY - Voters must make sure to verify the correct polling location for their precinct. Voting on Election Day is precinct specific, so the voter will need to know exactly which location they must go to, and it may not be the one they are used to using. Elections officials in the affected areas are working to finalize the Election Day locations and they should be available soon. However, the best option is to vote early. If a voter waits until Election Day to vote and there is a problem with their registration or location, it may be too late.
It is the voter's right to cast a ballot in the jurisdiction of their permanent residence, even if that residence doesn't exist anymore. No one, not even an Election Judge, can question a voter's residency.
The Texas Democratic Party is working with our County Chairs and campaigns in the affected areas to make sure that all voters get to exercise their right to vote and have their ballot counted. Voters can visit the TDP website's Voter Information page for more details. You can help by disseminating this information to others who may have friends or loved ones facing these situations.
If you have any questions about how to help these voters exercise their rights, feel free to call the Texas Democratic Party at 512-478-9800.
Proposed early voting branch sites: