LUBBOCK, Texas — After the 2020 election, Texas made news with Senate Bill 1, which prevented drive-through voting; however, the state still allowed for curbside voting. What is the difference?
Lubbock County Elections Administrator Roxzine Stinson recently clarified what is allowed.
“To me, drive-thru is like you’ve got a tent set up or carport or garage that you can drive through,” Stinton said. “Curbside is if you meet the qualifications that you cannot come in without harm, or you just can’t physically come into a polling location.”
Not everyone may use curbside voting in Texas.
A state website, votetexas.gov, said, “If a voter is physically unable to enter the polling place, he or she may ask that an election officer bring a ballot to the entrance of the polling place or to a car parked at the curbside.”
Who determines if a voter is unable to enter? You do.
“I have to depend on you for being honest that you’re unable to come into the polling location,” Stinson said.
Guidance from the Texas Attorney General said, “Specifically, an election official may provide a ballot to a registered voter ‘at the polling place entrance or curb’ only if the voter is ‘physically unable to enter the polling place without personal assistance or likelihood of injuring the voter’s health.’”
The guidance referred to Texas Election Code 64.009(a).
It continued, “But if a voter can enter the polling place on his or her own without a likelihood of injury, then it is unlawful for an election official to allow that voter to cast a ballot outside the polling place.”
Can Stinson or other election officials in Texas challenge you on this issue? The answer is “ordinarily” no.
“While election officials should not ordinarily question a voter’s good-faith representation that the voter is physically unable to enter a polling place, officials should not actively encourage voters to engage in unauthorized curbside voting,” the Texas AG guidance said.
So, for the person who qualifies, how does this work?
“You can have an assistant with you,” Stinson said. “And they can go in, tell them that you’re there.”
“Or you can call our office,” she said. “Tell us what time you think you’re going to be at the location [and] which one.”
Some voting locations have a doorbell, Stinson said.
“So, they’ll come out and bring what they need and ask for your I.D.,” Stinson said. “They can look you up.”
The worker will leave momentarily and then come back.
“They’ll go in and get the ballot for you, bring it out,” Stinson said. “And it’s a whole big unit that they’ll bring out to you so you can vote.”
Stinson demonstrated a carrying case that allows a battery-powered voting machine to be taken out to a vehicle.
The rules for curbside voting don’t differ county to county, Stinson said, because they’re governed by a statewide law.
Other voting accommodations for disabilities include Braille on voting equipment and tactile switches, Stinson said. Those who bring their own sip-and-puff apparatus can also be accommodated. Some locations have American Sign Language interpreters, and some of the voting machines are lower for those who need to sit in a chair or a wheelchair.
“We visit all of our locations and do an ADA check,” Stinson said. “We even had someone from Texas Disability Rights a few years ago come to all of our locations. She then gave us advice and solutions.”
“We do everything that we can to make sure that each one,” she said, “can be as accessible as best we can.”
According to votetexas.gov, “All polling places in Texas must be accessible.”