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As voters across Texas began heading to the polls this week, turning out in record numbers to early vote in-person, local election officials received a reminder that masks are not mandated inside polling places.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter Wednesday to county election administrators, clarifying Gov. Greg Abbott’s July executive order mandating masks statewide:

My office is receiving reports that certain poll watchers, election clerks, and other individuals administering elections are being barred from executing their duties on account of not wearing a mask or face-covering. This is wrong.

 

This letter serves as a reminder that on July 2, 2020, Governor Abbott issued Executive Order No. GA-29 relating to the use of face coverings during the COVID-19 disaster. See attached. The Order states plainly that the statewide “face-covering requirement does not apply to … any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election.” See the attached Order at page 2, paragraph 8.

 

Political subdivisions may not contravene the Governor’s Order. Doing so is unlawful.

Abbott’s mask mandate—one of 25 executive orders issued by the governor since he declared a coronavirus disaster—specifically exempts voters and election workers inside polling places, but adds “wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged.”

The order also exempts “any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering.”

Voting safety protocols issued by the Texas Secretary of State also recommend voters “consider wearing” face coverings or masks when entering a polling place.

“During the hours of voting, the Election Code supersedes any rules, laws, or ordinances normally in place at that location,” Christine Welborn, Direct Action Texas’ director of election integrity, told Texas Scorecard.

Early voting began Tuesday and runs through October 30. Election Day is November 3.

If you encounter mask mandates when voting, please contact [email protected].