by: Iris Karami
CAMERON COUNTY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Early voting for the primary elections start on Monday, February 14, but before you cast your ballot some experts say there are changes you should be aware of.
Senate Bill 1 was signed into Texas law in September 2021 to prevent election fraud, according to the bill’s text.
Cameron County’s election department sent out vote-by-mail ballots out on Monday according to Elections Administrator Remi Garza. However, he said voters should be aware of the changes to voting due to SB 1.
Garza emphasized the importance of knowing your identification number for a mail-in ballot.
“The application this year and for the future, you’ll have to put some identification numbers whether it’s the last four digits of your social or your Texas driver’s license or personal identification number or election identification certificate,” said Garza. “It’s issued by the DPS (Texas Department of Public Safety) office—that’s not your voter registration number or your VUID (Voter Unique Identifier) number.”
SB 1 also prohibits 24-hour polling sites and drive-thru voting.
Some lawmakers, like the Texas house representative of district 39 Armando Ramirez, said SB 1 makes it harder for residents with disabilities to vote.
“Senate bill 1 has made it harder with people with disabilities to vote, and we know that 20% of our U.S. Population are disabled,” said Ramirez.
Garza added that this year they are able to help fix any mail-in envelopes with mistakes.
“This year we will have an opportunity to help people cure their returned envelopes so if they make a mistake, we can try to correct it before it gets reviewed by the early voting ballot board and ultimately accepted or rejected,” said Garza.
According to Texas law to vote by mail, you must be:
- Be 65 years or older
- Be sick or disabled
- Be out of the county on election day and during early voting
- Be expected to give birth within three weeks before or after election day
- Be confined in jail, but otherwise eligible
Garza said that you cannot drop off a mail-in ballot by hand until election day.
All other mail-in ballots can be sent by mail carrier at any time but must be post-marked by March 1st.
“You can’t drop your ballot off until election day which is different—a lot of people were thinking that once they got it they could return it but not until election day between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. can we receive it here in our office,” said Garza.
Other changes from SB 1 include voting hours being restricted to 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m and Sunday’s 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Those assisting someone in voting will now be required to use a new oath to swear-in, according to Garza.
“If you’re providing assistance to somebody there is a new oath that you have to take in making certain statements in respect to whether or not you’re aware of the person’s limitations on why they need assistance,” said Garza.
SB 1 also has the requirement where “there’s poll watchers in the polling place they have to be able to see and hear versus just what’s happening in the polling place,” said Garza.
Garza added that to cast your vote in Cameron County, you must know your county precinct to cast it in. Early voting with take place between February 14 through February 25 with no voting on President’s Day.
Primary election day will be held on March 1st.
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