Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that he is extending early voting in the state by nearly a week in response to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic during this year’s election.

Abbott, a Republican, also announced the expansion of the period when voters can turn in mail-ballots.

"As we respond to COVID-19, the State of Texas is focused on strategies that preserve Texans’ ability to vote in a way that also mitigates the spread of the virus," Abbott said. "By extending the early voting period and expanding the period in which mail-in ballots can be hand-delivered, Texans will have greater flexibility to cast their ballots, while at the same time protecting themselves and others from COVID-19."


Texas is currently suffering from one of the worst surges of the virus. After aggressively reopening the state’s economy, Abbott and other state leaders have been forced to implement many restrictions to battle the contagion’s spread.

As on Monday, the state had more than 396,000 confirmed cases – up almost 6,000 from Sunday – and almost 5,100 deaths tied to the coronavirus.

Abbott has changed his tune toward the virus in recent weeks, as he’s urged citizens to wear masks in public, social distance themselves and help stop the spread of the virus so economic impact will not be so dire.


"We do not want to shut down business or Texas again,” Abbott told Fox News’ “Hannity” earlier this month. "We cannot have that. What we can do, however, we can use these practices ... people can wear masks. We can use these other strategies to slow the spread while we are awaiting the time when we do have these vaccines."

Abbott’s announcement, however, is a bit of surprise move. GOP politicians have for decades – and with some success – pushed to have early voting periods shortened.

The announcement also comes as President Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden are locked in a tight race in the once Republican-dominated state. The RealClearPolitics average of polls in Texas has the two candidates basically in dead heat race ahead of the November general election, with Trump holding a 0.2 point lead over Biden.