SAN ANTONIO – As if a presidential election year needed any more drama, 2020 has delivered with a pandemic. COVID-19 has greatly increased the debates and legal battles over who should get to vote by mail in Texas.
While the rules regarding who can vote by mail have not changed this year, Gov. Greg Abbott has expanded how and when the mail-in ballots can be turned in. Here’s what you need to know.
Who can vote by mail?
U.S. Armed Forces and Merchant Marines, their dependents and U.S. citizens who live abroad can vote early by mail. For more information, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program website.
Mail/absentee ballot voting is also available to elderly voters and voters with physical disabilities.
You may be eligible to vote by mail if you are:
- Going to be away from your county on Election Day and during early voting
- Out-of-state college students who still claim a Texas address as their primary residence
- Sick or disabled
- 65 years of age or older on Election Day
- Confined in jail, but eligible to vote
How do I vote by mail?
Bexar County voters who are interested in voting by mail must submit this application to the Bexar County Elections Department, but the applications must be received — not postmarked — no later than 11 days before Election Day, or Oct. 23. If you have questions, call 210-335-0362.
Once you fill out the application, mail it to:
Bexar County Elections (Early Voting Clerk)
1103 S. Frio St., Suite 200
San Antonio, TX 78207-6328
Click here to find out where to submit your application for ballot by mail in other Texas counties.
When county elections officers determine you are eligible to vote by mail, they will send you a blank absentee ballot electronically or by mail.
What’s changed for 2020?
In July, Gov. Abbott issued a proclamation extending the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election. Instead of the typical 17 days of early voting, Texans will now have nearly a week longer to cast their ballots early.
Early voting starts Tuesday, Oct. 13 and continues through Oct. 30. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 5. Find out how to register to vote in Texas here.
In that same proclamation, the governor also allowed voters to deliver a marked mail ballot in person to the early voting clerk’s office prior to and including on Election Day. In typical years, the hand-delivery of mail ballots is only allowed on Election Day. In Bexar County, those hand-delivered ballots must go to the elections office at 1103 S. Frio St., Suite 200. They will not be accepted at polling places and voters will need to present a valid ID.
“Because Texas is a Voter ID state (voters) must show their ID when they come in with their voted mail ballot,” said Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen.
Callanen said there will be a separate entrance at the elections office for drop off of mail-in ballots. The ballots must contain a signature across the sealed flap and voters will be asked to sign a roster when they turn their ballots in.
Absentee/mail-in ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots from overseas voters must be received by the 5th day after Election Day. Ballots from members of the armed forces must be received by the 6th day after Election Day. Members of the military and other overseas voters can track the status of their ballot online.
Not sure if you’re registered to vote in the Nov. 3 election? Click here to check.
The following is a list of mail-in ballot voting procedures from the Bexar County Elections Department:
- Voter packet arrives (to voter) in brown envelope
- Contents: letter from SOS, list of write-in candidates, letter about bringing mail-in ballots by hand, white secrecy envelope and actual ballot
- Voter completes ballot, places in white secrecy envelope, places in mailing envelope, signs their name across the flap, and sends into elections office or brings in by hand
- Once mail-in ballots are returned to elections office
- Ballots are scanned in and turned over to early ballot board
- Ballots are then verified—voter’s signature across flap ensures it’s them—that signature is scanned in
- Ballots are turned over to another group, which takes out the ballot and places in a bucket
- Voters may check the status of their ballot at bexar.org/elections through election ballot-tracking software that went online October 4th.
- Ballot Tracking
- Voter enters last name, birthdate, DL number or last four of social
- Tracking status informs voter: whether elections has voter’s app, whether it’s entered into system, whether ballot is pending (meaning it is in the print queue in-house), the date the ballot was placed in the mail and the date the ballot was returned to elections by the voter
- Process for voter who requests mail-in ballot, then votes in person
- Voter record is marked in elections once they request mail-in ballot
- If voter then decides to vote in person, officials will process their name and information
- Notice comes up to judge, “Has a mail ballot”
- Voter fills out cancellation
- Voter may vote in person
- All laptops at all polls talk to each other to ensure no one votes more than once