Get more election news on KSAT’s Vote 2022 page.
Voting by mail, or absentee voting, has become a hot-button issue amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a heated political landscape.
After a national controversy over mail ballots in the 2020 election, the Texas Legislature made sweeping changes to the state’s election laws.
Those changes — Senate Bill 1 — were signed into law last year by Gov. Greg Abbott after a high-profile fight between political parties at the Texas Legislature.
The legislation makes several changes to the election process in Texas, including some rules for voters hoping to cast their ballot by mail for the 2022 Texas midterms.
WATCH: What to know about voter registration before Monday deadline
For the March 1 primary, the last day to submit an application for a ballot by mail is Feb. 18. But before you fill out that application, there are some things you need to know about the process.
Here are the main changes under SB 1 when it comes to mail or absentee voting:
- There is a NEW application for 2022. The old applications will not be accepted.
- An application must be submitted in writing and signed in ink — electronic signatures, photocopied signatures or signatures in pencil are NOT allowed.
- Election officials may not distribute mail-in ballots or an application for a mail-in ballot to anyone who did not submit a request for an application.
- Early voting applications must include the applicant’s driver’s license number or Department of Public Safety issued personal identification number. An applicant without a driver’s license or DPS PIN must declare that and include the last four digits of their social security number. If a voter uses a different number on the application and ballot, the ballot will be rejected.
Bexar County voters who are interested in voting by mail must submit this application to the Bexar County Elections Department. The applications must be received — not postmarked — no later than 11 days before Election Day, or Feb. 18.
Because of the changes to the application process this year, you may want to send your application in well before the Feb. 18 deadline. That way, if your application is rejected because it wasn’t filled out according to the new rules, you have time to submit a corrected one.
As of mid-January, Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen said that her office has had to reject about a third of the applications so far — more than 325 — because people did not use the new application or include their driver’s license or ID number.
“It’s disturbing that our senior citizens who have relished and embraced voting by mail are now having to jump through some hoops, and it’s upsetting when we have to send a rejection letter [when] we can see they’ve voted with us by mail for years,” Callanen told the Texas Tribune.
The League of Women Voters of the San Antonio area has issued a guide for filling out an early voting application. They recommend using both your driver’s license/state ID number and the last four digits of your Social Security number to avoid issues.
If you have questions about the application process, call the Bexar County Elections Office at 210-335-0362.
Keep reading for what you need to know about mail-in voting.
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
You must apply to vote by mail each year in Texas. So if you hope to vote by mail in the March primary, you must submit the new application.
How do I vote by mail?
When county elections officers determine you are eligible to vote by mail based on your application, they will send you a blank absentee ballot electronically or by mail.
After filling out the ballot and signing across the sealed flap of the envelope (the signature must match your signature on the ballot and application), Bexar County voters must mail their absentee ballots to this address:
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.
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.
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.
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.