The Trib has dropped its paywall on all the coverage related to the coronavirus. Find all the coverage on our coronavirus latest page.
The city of Waco and the Waco and Midway school districts, for now at least, plan to move forward with May 2 elections despite concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
The city will reconsider if the situation worsens before May 2, and it also plans to make a formal request that Gov. Greg Abbott let the city postpone the election until July 14, rather than the Nov. 3 date he already has authorized. July 14 is the date congressional primary runoff elections have been postponed to, and Nov. 3 is the date of the presidential election.
“The only option Governor Abbott has offered is postponing until November 3,” a city press release states. “There are a number of concerns about that, not the least of which being the uncertainty about whether the COVID-19 virus may come back in the fall and potentially be worse than it is on May 2.”
Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver said McLennan County elections officials, under contract with the city, will continue to prepare for a May 2 election in the meantime.
“If things get worse and we think we can’t have a fair and safe election, then we won’t do that,” Deaver said.
Midway ISD’s school board voted Thursday to authorize the superintendent to request Abbott grant the option to postpone to the July 14 congressional primary runoff date rather than Nov. 3 presidential election date.
District spokeswoman Traci Marlin said the Nov. 3 option approved by the governor is problematic because school boards are nonpartisan. The Waco City Council also is nonpartisan.
“It’s not ideal for a school election to be in the middle of a presidential election,” Marlin said. “We’re nonpartisan. We’d prefer to not be a part of that.”
Waco ISD spokesman Josh Wucher said the district’s election plans had not changed. Waco ISD officials have said they plan to move forward with a May 2 election.
Mayor Deaver said preparations to move forward May 2 do not prevent a later postponement.
“The fact that we’re saying we’re moving ahead with the May 2 election is just simply saying that we’re still on track for a May 2 election,” Deaver said. “That doesn’t mean that we can’t postpone it any time between now and then.”
As of Wednesday, the cities of Bellmead, Hewitt, Mart and McGregor, and Crawford ISD had postponed their elections. Deaver said the mix of entities postponing and entities forging ahead means McLennan County Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe has to remake ballots.
“She’s got a level of work that she’s got to begin if we’re not going to postpone it,” Deaver said. “She’s having to redo the ballots because of several other entities postponing their elections.”
Deaver said the decision to postpone could go right up to Election Day.
“I think we could go right up to May 2,” Deaver said. “I think that would not be what we would want to do, but you know there were a lot of state primaries that were postponed the day of, or the day before their primaries in the last couple of weeks. I recognize that creates a lot of work for the election administrator and her staff. So we would try not to do that.”
The city’s press release also outlines precautions the city and election officials plan to take, including discouraging election workers and judges who are older than 65 from working this election, sanitizing voting machines between each usage, and urging people who are more at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 to vote by mail.
“By taking these measures, we will create an environment that is as safe or safer than going to the grocery store, visiting a bank, or picking up to-go food,” the press release states.