Deana Patterson told commissioners that her department could get up to $124,180 from the state and federal government to cover costs associated with changes to elections due to COVID-19 pandemic. She said she will have to have a 20 percent cash match to get that money but she already has that $24,836 in her budget.
“That wouldn’t be an extra 20 percent that the county has to throw in,” she said.
She said she even has the opportunity to apply for additional funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Emergency Security Act, also known as CARES ACT for an Elections Security Grant.
She said one of the unexpected expenses that her department has incurred is the extended early voting period for the upcoming runoff election in the Democratic Party Primary. The runoff election will be held on July 14 but the state has extended the early voting period from one week to two.
Generally, she said, the county would have to pay for the runoff expenses like employees and supplies but now she can use some of that money to offset those expenses.
“We certainly feel like the early voting period for November will be expanded also we just don’t know how much," she added.
The grant will also help to offset the cost of what she is said is sure to be an increased number requests to vote by mail. Those applications, she said, cost about $4 per voter to process.
Grayson County Judge Bill Magers asked her about the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling on who can and can't vote by mail.
Patterson said state the ruling says that they are not going to change the qualifications to get to use a mail-in ballot.
She said that the resolution the commissioners approved Tuesday also covers a security grant that will be coming down the line. Her office, she reminded commissioners, just went through their security assessment and do not have the results back yet on that. But when they do get those results and know what they will need to do, they won’t have to go back through the commissioners court to apply for that grant.
“It allows us to provide for some security and some training for our poll workers,” she said. Those poll workers will have to keep voting places and the machines clean and that will require more staffing she said.
And just in a Presidential Election, there’s more staffing required (normally),” she said.
The grant also provides some money for communication, she said, to buy time or space with media outlets to let the voters know what the procedures will be when they get to the polls.
Patterson said they will likely be supplying masks to people when they come into vote if they don't bring their own. She said they are going to strongly encourage people to wear masks, but they can't require it.