June 10, 2020
Opinion piece by Texas Medical Association (TMA) physician leaders, about voting safely during the pandemic.
As physicians, our professional ethics require us to participate in civic activities, and that includes voting. We strongly encourage our patients, family, and friends to vote, too.
With the coronavirus still actively spreading in Texas, some of our elderly patients and Texans with disabilities have asked if it’s safe for them to vote in the July 14 primary runoff elections. Since seniors and people with disabilities are most at risk for serious illness if they catch COVID-19, here’s our advice.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and vote. If you will be 65 years or older on Election Day or have a disability, you can vote early by mail in a Texas election under current state law.
It’s a two-step process. You have to apply for a mail-in ballot on time, and you have to turn it in on time. Your application must be received by the early voting clerk in your county by Thursday, July 2. Your completed ballot must be received by your county election office by Tuesday, July 14.
For all the specifics, see the Texas Secretary of State’s webpage on voting by mail at tma.tips/MailVote.
By the way, it’s pretty simple to determine if you will be 65 or older on Election Day – you have to have been born on or before July 14, 1955.
For early voting purposes, state law defines “disability” this way: “A sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on Election Day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter's health.” You don’t need a doctor’s note or anything to prove that, just your signature swearing that you are telling the truth and you “understand that giving false information in this application is a crime.”
If you decide you want to vote in person during early voting (June 29 to July 10) or on Election Day, Texas Secretary of State Ruth R. Hughes has issued “Health Safety Check Lists” for voters, poll workers, and election sites. As physicians, we think they make a lot of sense for all Texans, regardless of age or disability. We encourage you to follow them.
- Stay at least six feet away from others;
- Bring your own pen, pencil, or stylus;
- Wash or disinfect your hands before and after voting;
- Wear a face mask (you may have to take it off for the election judge to confirm your identity); and
- Consider applying for an emergency mail-in ballot if you have any COVID-19 symptoms or you've been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
Remember: Stay safe, stay healthy, and vote.
Diana L. Fite, MD
President, Texas Medical Association
E. Linda Villarreal, MD
President-elect, Texas Medical Association
Gary W. Floyd, MD
Chair, Texas Medical Association Board of Trustees
Bradford S. Patt, MD
Chair, Texas Medical Association Political Action Committee
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 53,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.
Brent Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320
Marcus Cooper (512) 370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336