Ashley Lopez

Ashley Lopez joined KUT in January 2016. She covers politics and health care, and is part of the NPR-Kaiser Health News reporting collaborative. Previously she worked as a reporter at public radio stations in Louisville, Ky.; Miami and Fort Myers, Fla., where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.

Ashley was also part of NPR’s Political Reporting Partnership during the 2016 presidential election. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In an effort to keep voters safe, states of all political complexions are finding ways to expand access to mail-in ballots as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Then there's Texas.

The state has some of the most restrictive laws limiting vote by mail in the country. Under Texas law, the program is open only to people who are 65 or older, people who will be out of the county during the election, people who are in jail and not convicted, and people who are disabled.

Elizabeth Hernandez moved to the United States from Mexico almost 30 years ago and was days away from becoming an American citizen when her March 15 naturalization ceremony was canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It made me sad," said Hernandez, who lives in New Mexico. She hadn't thought much about becoming a citizen until this year because of the upcoming election. "I want to vote for a president who will improve the country."

A version of this story was first posted by member station KUT in Austin.

A Texas judge said Wednesday he will clarify that voters fearful of contracting COVID-19 will be allowed to use mail-in ballots during elections in July and November.

For Texas Democrats, the state's Super Tuesday primary could help define the shape of a party that's on the rise after more than two decades of being shut out of power.

During the Trump administration, the party has experienced a surge of new voters — ranging from suburban voters in areas of Texas historically dominated by Republicans to a new crop of young, racially diverse voters.

Over the past few years, abortion providers in Texas have struggled to reopen clinics that had closed because of restrictive state laws.

There were more than 40 clinics providing abortion in Texas on July 12, 2013 — the day lawmakers approved tough new restrictions and rules for clinics.

A version of this story was first posted by member station KUT in Austin.

Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, who was behind the botched effort to remove alleged noncitizens from the state's voter rolls, resigned Monday as the Texas Legislature's session came to a close.

After high turnout in last year's midterm elections propelled Democrats to a new House majority and big gains in the states, several Republican-controlled state legislatures are attempting to change voting-related rules in ways that might reduce future voter turnout.

In Texas, a growing number of patients are turning to a little-known state mediation program to deal with unexpected hospital bills.

The bills in question often arrive in patients' mailboxes with shocking balances that run into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When patients, through no fault of their own, are treated outside their insurers' network of hospitals, the result can be a surprise bill. Other times, insurers won't agree to pay what the hospital charges, and the patient is on the hook for the balance.

Texas officials are taking a step back on their claim they found 95,000 possible noncitizens in the state's voter rolls. They say it is possible many of the people on their list should not be there.

In a statement Tuesday, the Texas Secretary of State's office said they "are continuing to provide information to the counties to assist them in verifying eligibility of Texas voters."

As U.S. immigration enforcement becomes stricter under the Trump administration, more immigrant families are cutting ties with health care services and other critical government programs, according to child advocates who work with these families.

In Texas, researchers studying the issue say it's a major reason why more children are going without health insurance.

Election officials in Texas are working to address concerns about a slew of voting machines currently being used in this year's midterm election. They say user error is mostly to blame because voters are not waiting for screens to load on the state's aging machines.

Attorneys with the Texas Civil Rights Project say they have heard about issues, particularly with people voting a straight-ticket ballot on Hart eSlate machines, which are used in many counties in the state. Early voting has been underway in Texas for the past week.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been charging a record number of people with committing voter fraud, an effort his critics decry as an intimidation campaign designed to discourage minority voters from casting ballots.

In 2018 alone, Paxton's office has prosecuted "33 defendants for a total of 97 election fraud violations," compared with a total of 97 prosecutions on similar charges for the 12-year period between 2005 and 2017, according to a release this month from Paxton's office.

The Texas Senate race wasn't supposed to be competitive this year. But thanks to an imaginative campaign, Beto O'Rourke has energized Democrats, drawing huge crowds and raising tens of millions of dollars in what was initially seen as a long-shot bid to defeat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

States across the country are in the process of receiving grants from the federal government to secure their voting systems.

Earlier this year Congress approved $380 million in grants for states to improve election technology and "make certain election security improvements."

But how states use that money is up to them.

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