Texas Voters : Absentee Ballot Request
Absentee Voting in Texas
Because of the Coronavirus, there is a surge in the number of voters registering for absentee ballots. With an absentee ballot, you receive a ballot in the mail. You can cast your vote by returning the completed ballot or dropping it off at a deposit box in a polling station. Every state has different rules regarding who is allowed to register for an absentee ballot. There are also different deadlines for absentee ballots, including when you can register as well as when you cast your ballot. While some states have changed the process for absentee ballots, as of writing Texas has not changed the rules for absentee voting.
Eligibility Requirements for Absentee Voting in Texas
In order to qualify for an absentee ballot in Texas, you must meet at least one of the following eligibility requirements:
- Be at least 65 years of age.
- Be disabled.
- Be out of country when an election is taking place, as well as absent during the period where early voting is allowed.
- Be confined in jail, while still meeting the necessary requirements to cast a vote in the first place.
If you meet the eligibility requirements, you must submit an Application for Ballot by Mail (ABBM). You can download the ABBM online, but you must print the application and send it to the early voting clerk’s office for your county. If you are unable to access the application online, you can send a request to the clerk’s office to mail you an application. If you printed the application, you are required to provide your own envelope and postage. If you request an application, you will also receive an envelope to return the application.
There are two relevant deadlines relating to absentee ballots. The last day you can apply for an absentee ballot in 2020 is October 23rd. However, you can only apply for an absentee ballot if you are already registered to vote. If this is the first year you are voting in Texas, you must register to vote by October 5th.
If you are approaching the deadline to register for an absentee ballot and you are worried about how long it takes to process the application by mail, you can submit a scanned copy of your application. This acts as a temporary application, which is discarded if your mailed application does not arrive within four business days.
Casting an Absentee Ballot
If your application is accepted, you will receive an absentee ballot before the election. When you receive your ballot depends on where you live. In the past, most counties started to send ballots out in September. The ballot contains instructions on how to cast your vote, including where to send the completed ballot. Make sure you appropriately sign and date all of the necessary sections, otherwise, your vote will not be counted.
In Texas, you are allowed to submit your absentee ballot on the same day as an election, up until 7:00 p.m. If your ballot is postmarked, the deadline is extended to 5:00 p.m. of the following day. In addition to sending your absentee ballot through the mail, you can also go to a polling station and leave it in a deposit box.
Military and Overseas Absentee Ballots
The rules for military members and oversea voters are the same, but there are some additional resources available. Instead of applying through the county office, you can request a Federal Postcard Application (FPCA). The latest you can request a FPCA is 12 days before an election. FPCA’s are available for spouses and dependents of military members who are living outside of Texas. Military members can get additional assistance by speaking with a voting assistance officer. Oversea voters can request help at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Election Changes for 2020
During the presidential primaries, when the coronavirus was first starting to hit the United States, there was a great deal of debate over whether it was safe to hold in-person elections. The Texas Democratic Party fought to overturn the absentee voting rules. Many states with similar voting rules passed exceptions allowing anyone to register to vote by mail, but as of writing, this request was overturned by the Supreme Court. Currently, Texas and Mississippi are the only two states which have not made any changes to absentee voting.
While the state is not allowing for increased absentee voting, election officials are taking steps to make voting safer for both voters and poll workers. Officials delayed the primary votes from May 26th to July 14th. This gave officials more time to secure new voting locations and procure additional protective equipment for poll workers. Tis includes face shields for anyone working at a polling station and additional cleaning equipment to wipe down voting machines. Whenever possible, officials are implementing hands-free options to limit human contact.
Based on how well the primary goes, additional changes may be made for the November elections. Because there are more voters in a presidential election, officials are already looking for additional polling stations. Voters are also encouraged to register for early voting whenever possible, which will hopefully cut down on wait times on election day, as well as avoiding overcrowding.