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Newswest 9 | Midland, Texas | newswest9.com

COVID-19 study looks at ways to make voters feel safe at polls

Using an online survey, Rice University wanted to find ways to make voters feel safe enough to cast their ballot.

HOUSTON, Texas — Just months ahead of the November election, Rice University was tasked with finding out how Harris County voters feel about the upcoming election In regards to coronavirus.

Using an online survey, they hope to find ways to make voters feel safe enough to cast their ballot.

The July primary runoff came and went, and for voters, it was the first time to figure out what a COVID-19 election will be like. 

“Those (who) did vote in the July primary runoff election were overwhelmingly satisfied with what the (Harris County) clerk (Chris Hollins) did," KHOU Political Analyst Bob Stein said. 

In an effort to find out how to make people feel safer at polls, Rice University conducted the study of "almost 6,000 voters in Harris County," Stein said. 

Stein was part of that study, and says when asking people why they didn’t vote in the July election, 14.2 percent of voters said they didn’t know there was an election and 21.6 percent said they weren’t interested. 

But most voters surveyed, 27.6 percent, cited fear of coronavirus as the reason they didn’t vote.

“There is a lot of concern about COVID-19," Stein said. 

Researchers broke that fear down by race. 

“African Americans, Hispanics and Asians are overwhelming more concerned about COVID-19 and voting," Stein said. 

They also learned the three precautions that made voters feel the most safe are a social distancing floor plan, PPE for poll workers and masks for voters.

When it comes to mail-in voting, 45 percent of voters surveyed said they were eligible to vote by mail, and 55 percent of those eligible had already applied for a mail-in ballot.

But when voters were asked how to mail-in vote, many of them did not know the right ways to apply or even submit that ballot. 

“A lot more information has to be given out to voters about mail-in voting," Stein said. 

But one of the biggest findings is even with COVID-19, most people will still vote. 

“Voters are not deterred by COVID-19. They want to vote, and I don’t think that comes as any surprise," Stein said.