New Texas voting laws: What to expect for Jim Wells County

Robin Bradshaw
Alice Echo News Journal

Gov. Greg Abbott signed new restrictions to Texas voting laws on Tuesday, Sept. 7. A series of new mandates passed this week will affect the larger metropolitan cities more than Jim Wells County, but here are some changes residents can expect locally. 

"Many of the new laws passed will affect procedures on an administrative level," said Richard Guerra, county's elections administrator. "It is now a felony for our staff to send a mail-in voting application to any resident without a formal request. The law will also prohibit the office to help with any unsolicited distribution of absentee ballots by any third parties. The county clerk is on a shorter deadline to send death certificates of deceased residents to our office to ensure votes are not cast in their name." 

The voting registration and election office is located at the Jim Wells County courthouse in Alice, Texas.

JWC will continue to provide curbside voting and will not be affected by the banning of drive-thru voting; a new feature offered in the larger populated cities in response to the pandemic. Stricter laws for mail-in voting will include providing a driver's license number or the last four digits of a social security number twice: once on the absentee ballot application form and once on the envelope when returning the ballot.

"My main goal is transparency and security," Guerra explains. "Poll watchers will now have more movement capabilities as part of the new voting law mandates, they can move around watch closing procedures but privacy is still a voters respect to adhere to. The county ballot boards will also have the capability to deny mail votes when signatures do not match, but I plan to post all the information online."

"If it is public record and adheres to the secretary of state I plan to share openly with the public," he said.

The security at the courthouse is in the process of vast improvements. In May 2020, the office performed an assessment to see how many flaws or weaknesses the office could potentially have. Security measures in the office and private voting information have been improved. At the end of the process, which will be in a few months, the JWC elections office will be performing at a top security level compared to the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) standards. 

Jim Wells County Elections Administrator, Richard Guerra