The First Special Session of the 85th Texas Legislature ended on August 18 but not before adding some confusion to the handling of mail in ballots at nursing homes.

During the Regular Session, which ended in May, the Legislature passed a provision that would have made it easier for nursing home residents to vote. House Bill 658 would have required that if five residents from the same facility requested a mail-in ballot, the county would come open a polling site for residents at that facility.

THCA supported that bill and it was signed by Governor Greg Abbott.

But during the special session, a bill addressing mail-in ballot fraud picked up an amendment that repealed that requirement. The author of the bill said that counties had complained about the added costs that would be associated with the bill that passed in the spring.

The amendment and the bill passed and the Governor signed the bill.

However, in what was likely an oversight, the latter bill does not take effect until December 1 but HB 658 takes effect on September 1.

That means the requirement for counties will apply to all elections between September 1 and December 1, 2017. Included in that time period will be the state’s constitutional amendments vote in November and various local elections.

The Texas Secretary of State is responsible for carrying out the state’s elections. They have informed counties of the temporarily applicable bill. They said they are treating it like a pilot program to see how it would work should a future Texas legislature again pass the requirement.

For information on how this will be carried out this year, the Secretary of State’s office encourages facilities to contact their local county elections office.