The bars may be closed because of alarming spikes in coronavirus cases, but the polls are open starting Monday for early voting in the primary runoff election.

Election officials have made concerted efforts to try to ensure voters feel safe while exercising their rights to select leaders in the July 14 runoff election, McLennan County Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe said.

“We are taking precautions,” Van Wolfe said. “We are trying to make sure the polling places are sanitary, and the poll workers will be wearing face masks and shields and gloves, and we are making sure we are social distancing in our polling places. We are trying to do what we can to make the voters feel safe.”

Early voting continues through July 10. Early voting locations will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Thursday. After Independence Day, early voting will resume from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday, then from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 6 through July 10.

Republicans will choose between Pete Sessions and Renee Swann for District 17 U.S. Representative; and between Kristi DeCluitt and Thomas West for judge of 19th State District Court.

Democrats will select from MJ Hegar and Royce West for U.S. Senator; David Jaramillo and Rick Kennedy for District 17 U.S. Representative; and Chrysta Castaneda and Roberto R. “Beto” Alonzo for Railroad Commissioner.

There are changes this year to early voting locations. The most significant difference involves First Assembly of God Church, 6701 Bosque Blvd., which historically has been the busiest early voting location. It is not available for early voting this year, and will be replaced by the Waco High School Performing Arts Center, 2020 N. 42nd St., Van Wolfe said.

Signs will be placed at First Assembly of God Church directing voters to other early voting locations because it has been such a popular voting location. The church will be available for voting on Election Day, she said.

In Hewitt, voters normally cast early ballots at the city Public Safety Department. That building will not be used for the primary runoff, but the Hewitt City Hall and Library next door at 200 Patriot Court will take its place. Other early voting locations are the McLennan County Elections Office, 214 N. Fourth St.; the Waco Multi-Purpose Community Center, 1020 Elm Ave.; and the Robinson Community Center, 106 W. Lyndale Drive.

Voters will be able to keep the pens they use to sign in, and they also will receive pencils so they can use the eraser end to operate the selection wheel and buttons on voting machines. Poll workers will spray and wipe down the machines after each person votes, Van Wolfe said.

“We want everyone to come out and vote and we want everyone to feel safe in doing so,” she said.

Voters older than 65 or who are disabled can vote by mail. Applications can be obtained through the elections office and must be returned no later than Thursday.

Curbside voting also is available for anyone physically unable to go inside one of the voting locations.

The elections office produced a five-minute video that highlights health protocols and procedures that will be employed at the polling locations. Van Wofe recommends voters watch the video, which is available on the McLennan County Elections Office website and at wacotrib.com, before going to the polls.

Face coverings and social distancing are recommended, she said.

Sample ballots and a list of Election Day polling locations are available on the elections office website under July 14 runoff election.

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