Some Texas Voters Are Getting Their Mail-In Ballots Returned To Them, Group Says

Jul 13, 2020

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Some Texans who voted by mail in recent weeks are getting their filled-out ballots sent back to them, according to the League of Women Voters of Texas.

Grace Chimene, the league’s president, said this problem was flagged by a voter protection hotline in Texas just days before Election Day, which is Tuesday.

“The voters had done everything correctly, and the post office had returned those ballots to those voters,” Chimene said. “It went through the [U.S. Postal Service] system and got kicked back to the voters.”

It’s unclear whether the problem is with the envelopes voters were given – or whether it’s an issue with the post office. Reports are mostly coming from Dallas County. Chimene said she believes this may be a problem in other counties, too, but it’s not clear how widespread the issue is.

Stephen Chang, a spokesperson with the Texas Secretary of State’s office, said his office has been aware of the complaints.

“This issue does not appear to be widespread, and our office has been working with USPS and the counties to rectify the issue going forward,” he said in a statement.

Voters who have mailed-in their ballot, Chimene said, can call the local election administrator in their county to make sure their ballot is in the county’s possession.

Voters who still have their mail-in ballot and want to make sure their vote is counted on Election Day have two options, Chimene said. They can go into their polling location on Election Day, surrender their ballot and then vote in person. Or, they can turn in their filled-out, mail-in ballot to their local election administrator's office in person and show ID.

Texas’ vote-by-mail program, or absentee voting process, has historically been very limited compared to that of other states. The program is open only to people who are over 65, are out of town during an election, are in jail and not convicted, or have a disability.

Texas Democrats are asking federal courts to force the state to expand access to mail-in ballots during the pandemic. So far, courts have issued a series of contradictory opinions, and the program has remained limited during the current primary runoff. Even still, ahead of the runoff, local election officials have reported a surge of vote-by-mail applications among voters who do qualify. Chimene said because of the influx of mail-in ballots, the primary runoff has served as a stress test for Texas’ program.

“The counties are not used to having these higher numbers of vote-by-mail ballots being turned into them,” she said. “They are learning how to solve these issues that happen.”

Chimene said the hope is some of these issues will be worked out before the presidential election this fall.

“It’s a great time to try to figure out what the problems are so that we can make sure we can get them all solved before the [November] election,” she said.

Got a tip? Email Ashley Lopez at alopez@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.

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