NBC 5 Responds: Ballot By Mail Applications Deadline Looming

NBC 5 Responds breaks down Texas’ rules to help you make sure your vote is counted.

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If you want to vote by mail in the November 3 general election, your application for a ballot by mail needs to get to your county election office by Friday, October 23.

Elections officials from across North Texas tell NBC 5 Responds the demand for requesting a ballot by mail is up this election, so we are helping you make sure your vote is counted.

“It helps me keep up with what's happening and gives me a voice, not only the big elections but all the small ones, too,” said Tarrant County voter, Dr. Charlotte Risinger.

With just under two weeks to go until the November 3 election, Risinger has already requested, received and mailed her ballot.

There was “no standing in line, no worry about wearing a mask or parking my car and finding out where I supposed to go,” said Risinger.

Under Texas’ vote-by-mail rules, any voter that’s 65 or older qualifies for a mail-in ballot.  As do registered voters who are out of town and those in jail who are still eligible to vote. People with an illness or disability also qualify for a ballot by mail.

Texas did not expand mail-in voting during the pandemic and the courts have determined lack of immunity to COVID-19 isn’t reason enough, on its own, to qualify.

However, a voter can consider a lack of immunity to coronavirus along with their overall medical history to decide if they qualify.

“It's an individual decision on whether those other health aspects coupled with COVID, could make you feel, will make you eligible to vote by mail under the basis of a disability,” said Hani Mirza, senior attorney with Texas Civil Rights Project voter rights division.

Mirza explains the disability definition in Texas is broad and the application for a mail-in ballot does not require proof of a disability. Although, it is a crime to knowingly provide false information.

Texas will, however, require a doctor’s signature for an emergency ballot request after the mail-in voting deadline. To read more about emergency ballots, read our coverage here.

If you’ve decided you qualify for a regular mail-in ballot, fill out your application and get it to your local county elections office. The county elections office will process the mail-in applications and mail ballots to voters. Once you receive a ballot, it’s important to follow the mail-in ballot instructions.

Voters should carefully fill out their ballot and place it in the ballot envelope which then goes into the carrier envelope. The elections office address is printed on the carrier-envelope.

Voters should also ensure they are signing their name on the ballot the same way they signed their application for the ballot.

Larry Wainer has served on the Signature Verification Committee in Dallas County on behalf of the Republican Party. Republicans and Democrats on the bipartisan committee are tasked with trying to ensure the ballot that is sent to the elections office was signed by the same person who requested it.

“That's important to do under the legal concept of one person, one vote,” explained Wainer.

The people on the committee are not hand-writing experts. Wainer said they are looking for major discrepancies.

“Based on their physical or emotional state, the signature can end up looking different. If the signatures look similar enough to a rational, reasonable person, they get accepted,” said Wainer.

Some voter rights groups recommend taking a photo of your signature on the ballot-by-mail application so you can refer to it when signing your ballot. It may be helpful to sign with the same pen.

Before mailing, check to see if you have the correct postage.

Some North Texas counties pre-pay postage, others don’t. Multiple page ballots may require more than one stamp.

“Look on your envelope and make sure there’s one or two stamps or no stamps needed so make sure you have stamped it correctly,” said Grace Chimene, President of The League of Women Voters Texas.

Remember, your ballot by mail application must get to your county election office by Friday. Not just postmarked. The physical application has to be received by October, 23.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, you can email a signed and scanned copy of the application or fax it but you also have to mail the original, hard copy. And it has to get to your county elections office within four business days of your fax or email.

NBC 5 is committed to protecting your right to vote.  If you have an issue you’d like us to investigate, email us at investigate@nbcdfw.com.

North Texas County Election Offices:

Dallas County https://www.dallascountyvotes.org

Tarrant County https://www.tarrantcounty.com/en/elections.html

Collin County https://www.collincountytx.gov/elections/Pages/default.aspx

Denton County https://www.votedenton.com/

Parker County https://www.parkercountytx.com/118/Elections

Kaufman County https://www.kaufmancounty.net/elections/about/

Ellis County https://co.ellis.tx.us/312/Elections

Hood County https://www.co.hood.tx.us/222/Elections-and-Voter-Registration

Rockwall County https://www.rockwallvotes.com/

Johnson County https://www.johnsoncountytx.org/departments/elections-office

Van Zandt County http://www.vanzandtcounty.org/page/vanzandt.Elections

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