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Ebola Contacts Ask|to Vote by Email

DALLAS (CN) - Dallas officials on Monday asked a state judge to let the isolated health care workers who treated Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan vote by email to avoid exposing the public.

Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole filed her request in Dallas County Court Monday afternoon.

She cited a "need to balance the state's duty to protect the public health" and her "statutory responsibility to safeguard and insure" voters' rights.

Pippins-Poole "requests permission to be allowed to provide an alternative voting procedure for individuals who as a result of precautionary public health measures arising from the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in Dallas County are under agreed movement restrictions until such time that they are no longer within the incubation period for contracting the Ebola virus," the 5-page petition states.

"These individuals include healthcare workers who were in contact with Thomas Eric Duncan aka 'Patient Zero,' and others who were in contact with those healthcare workers."

Ninety-seven contacts in Dallas were placed under surveillance during the 21-day incubation period for Ebola, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Seventy-nine contacts have completed the isolation period and have been released from isolation, including Duncan's immediate family.

Two nurses who cared for Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas later tested positive for Ebola and were quickly isolated.

Nina Pham was transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

Amber Vinson was transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Both nurses have since tested negative for the disease and Pham was released on Friday .

Pippins-Poole said the still-isolated healthcare workers voluntarily agreed to restrict their movements during the incubation period.

The Dallas County Commissioners Court declined to impose mandatory control orders on the contacts on Oct. 17, citing a need to balance public safety with civil liberties .

Pippins-Poole says that the requested email voting program has been vetted and accepted by the Texas Secretary of State, and has been successfully administered in Bexar County in the past.

"Dallas County will appoint a limited number of individuals to receive the ballots of these voters by email, and these individuals will sign a non-disclosure agreement stating that they understand they will be viewing marked ballots by known voters, and that they are not authorized to disclose or divulge the voter's selection, or any data regarding the individuals allowed to vote by this method to protect their privacy," the petition states. "Dallas County and health officials will notify all members of the eligible class of voters of the availability of this procedure."

Pippins-Poole also asked the court to extend the deadline for applying to vote by mail from Oct. 24 to Nov. 2 - two days before election day. She said time for preparations for the procedure are needed "because the ultimate extent of the Ebola outbreak cannot be known."

Pippins-Poole's petition was filed by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.

Follow @davejourno
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