Hays County Elections officials want voters to be aware of the new Texas vote-by-mail ballots and recent changes to the process of voting by mail to help ensure every vote counts.
According to Elections Administrator Jennifer Doinoff (formerly Anderson), the first step is to determine whether someone qualifies for a vote-by-mail ballot.
“To vote by mail in Texas you must qualify under one of the following categories,” she said. “Eligibility includes being age 65 or older, disabled (or have an illness) in a manner that prevents you from entering a polling location without injury to yourself, expected to give birth within three weeks before or after Election Day, and confined in a jail or civilly committed but otherwise eligible to vote.”
If a voter meets any of those criteria, Doinoff said they can request that her office send a vote-by-mail ballot to their home address.
She added that changes to the ballot that resulted from legislative action modified the process.
“I want every voter who qualifies for using the vote-by-mail ballot option to be aware of the changes and what they can do to ensure their ballots get accepted and their votes are counted,” Doinoff said.
She explained that the most important aspect of the new process is voters need to fill out the application completely.
“New voting laws require a ballot by mail voter to include their Texas-issued ID number, OR the last four digits of their Social Security Number (SSN) on the Application for Ballot by Mail Form,” she said. “The numbers provided MUST match the numbers on the voter’s registration file to be accepted.”
Many voters have both their ID and last four SSN digits on their voter registration file.
“We recommend entering both your Texas-issued ID and the last four of your Social Security Number on the application just to be safe,” Doinoff said. “You can also call the Hays County Election Office at 512-393-7310 to see what we have on file for you.”
She noted that the ID and SSN numbers will need to be entered on the voter’s application as well as on the ballot carrier envelope, which comes along with the ballot.
Once a voter receives his/her ballot, they should complete it fully and accurately, including all of the information noted above.
“After you complete your ballot,” Doinoff said, “place it in the secrecy envelope then place that in the carrier envelope, which is white with a purple stripe.”
She added, “Before you seal the carrier envelope, lift the flap and fill in the blanks under the “Required Information” section.”
Doinoff said this was a step that some voters missed during the primary and the information helps identify that the voter is the same person that requested the ballot.
“The section under the flap is where the voter will enter either their Texas-issued ID or the last four of their Social Security Number that matches the ID on their voter registration record,” she said. “Our office recommends that voters include both pieces of information.”
She said including both types of information on the application AND the ballot carrier envelope with help alleviate the chances of ballot rejection.
“Once the voter has completed this portion of the carrier envelope, they can seal the flap, sign over the flap in the red box and mail the ballot back to the Hays County Election Office,” she said. “Both the ID number and the signature are required for the ballot to be accepted.”
Doinoff emphasized that the new legislation offers voters the opportunity to correct any defects on their ballot in enough time to be counted.
“Make sure you include your phone number and email address under the flap so we can contact you if you need to make a correction on your ballot envelope,” she said. “The Elections Office, or the Early Voting Ballot Board, can contact you to certify your ID or sign your ballot should you forget those items before your submission.”
Doinoff said there are several ways to correct a ballot envelope:
- Go in person to your election office to certify your ID information within six (6) days after Election Day.
- Go to www.votetexas..gov, and click “Track My Ballot” to certify your ID information within six (6) days after Election Day.
- A voter may vote in person at any polling location, by canceling their mail ballot.
She also wants voters to allow plenty of time to receive and vote when using the vote-by-mail system.
“By contacting the Elections Office early, that will help make sure you have enough time to receive the packet, complete the ballot, fill out all the information on the envelope, mail it back and make any corrections if necessary,” Doinoff said. “But one of the best ways to ensure your vote counts is to completely fill in all of the requested information on the ballot and the ballot envelope.”
She also reminds voters that annual vote-by-mail applicants can apply every year in January to receive ballots for that year. Ballots must be received by the Hays County Elections Office by 5 p.m. the day after Election Day and postmarked no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.
“Our goal is to help all eligible vote-by-mail users to better understand the process,” Doinoff said. “Knowing this information will ensure that your ballot is accepted and counted in a timely manner.”