Latest COVID-19 surge, SB1 changes impacting Bexar County Elections Office

SAINT ANTONY – With early voting beginning Feb. 14, an immediate concern for Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen may be having to find three alternate sites since Wonderland Mall, Palo Alto College, and Copernicus Community Center are now sites COVID-19 test.

“It just depends on how long that push lasts,” Callanen said.

But, she said her office had begun researching other possible early voting sites near those he planned to use.

Callanen said it’s also possible that some schools’ previous sites could also be affected.

All updates will be posted on the Bexar County Office of Elections website.

The latest wave has also affected the elections office itself.

“We are a small but mighty force here. We have a staff of 21,” Callanen said, but as of Friday four had fallen with COVID-19.

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Callanen said others are on hold, such as substitute teachers who have been hard to find these days.

“We’ll see. We may be in the same boat, but I pray that’s not the case,” said Callanen, who also expects to hire temporary help next week.

Although many of his 400 poll workers in early voting and 1,400 in the general election are older and considered at risk, Callanen said: “We don’t expect any of our workers to back down. .”

She said: “They will have all the PPE they need to stay as safe as possible.”

Last year, the elections office spent at least $200,000 on face masks, shields, gloves and plexiglass dividers, Callanen said.

She also said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff last year even organized COVID-19 testing at the elections office for his officials and staff after the election was over.

Callanen said they could start again if the surge continues as it has.

Additionally, the upcoming elections will be the first under SB1, which brought controversial changes to the way people vote.

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Callanen said the biggest impact has been what it takes to get a mail-in ballot. Under SB1, election officials can no longer send nominations automatically.

Not only has the mail-in ballot requirement changed, “They must now provide either their Texas driver’s license or the last four of their social,” Callanen said.

She said they must match those registered in the election office.

But until now, she said voters 65 or older have never had to include this information.

“Then we have to reject it and send them another one and ask them to update their voter card,” Callanen said.

She said voters can also contact her office.

So far, Callanen said about a third, at least 325 out of more than 1,000 applications, have been rejected either because they didn’t include their driver’s license or social security number or that they had not used the new application.

The last day to receive a ballot request by mail is Feb. 18, Callanen said.

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“So we have maybe five weeks to, like I said, get it right,” she said.

However, Callanen said she is still awaiting SB1 guidelines regarding poll watchers and other rules from the Texas secretary of state.

“They were the ones who were tasked to go through SB1,” Callanen said.

But, she said, poll watchers will need to undergo training and have a certificate to prove it.

Callanen said it may have been his office or the office of the Texas secretary of state providing the required training.

“It’s absolutely a learning curve,” she said. “We’re all working our way through this.”

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