Voting By Mail In Texas
Wondering how you can vote by mail in Texas? Have you heard rumors about the requirements to vote absentee? Are you hoping to skip the long lines on election day and send your ballot via U.S. Mail?
If the answer is yes, you have come to the right place. That’s because Texas allows eligible, registered voters to vote by mail. But here is the thing – you need to make sure you fit the eligibility requirements.
Mail Ballot Texas Requirements
If you want to vote by mail in Texas, you must meet one of the following four criteria. Check it out:
- You need to be 65 years or older or;
- you are disabled or;
- you will be out of the county on Election Day and/or during the period for early voting by personal appearance; or
- you are in jail, but still eligible.
Wait – isn’t the possibility of catching coronavirus a reason?
The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that fear of COVID-19 does not constitute a disability under the state’s law, BUT the court also ruled that county election clerks have no duty to question or investigate the disability of voters who claim it.
What Does That Mean?
As reported by NPR, the Texas election code says: “disability” means “a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter's health.”
In other words, if you have a health condition that makes it difficult for you to stand in long lines (potentially for many hours), you get to decide if you if you meet the disability criteria.
Hang on, there is more: you are not asked what your disability is when sending in your application for vote by mail in Texas. As reported by Austin’s KUT, per the Texas Supreme Court Ruling on May 27. 2020:
“The decision to apply to vote by mail based on a disability is the voter’s, subject to a correct understanding of the statutory definition of ‘disability',” the court said in its order.”
Long Lines Suck
In Texas, we already know in certain voting precincts, the lines to vote – and the wait times – can be extremely long. Here’s a news report from WFAA in Dallas from the Super Tuesday primary on March 3.
What Is Considered a Disability
For election law purposes, the key thing to keep in mind, “disability” means “a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter's health.”
Here’s are some example physical conditions that some believe constitutes a disability. This is not a complete list and is for representational purposes only.
- Problems standing
- Difficulties with balance
- Ongoing medical treatments for a condition
- Inflammatory illnesses
- Back pain or back injury
- Knee problems
- Concentration issues
- Coronavirus disease
- Joint problems
- Foot problems
- Old injuries that get aggravated by standing
The list could go on and on. In fact, there is an entire list of physical ailments that are published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider.
Here’s what Jennifer Anderson, the elections administrator for Hays County south of Austin, said in an NPR piece about this issue:
“If somebody selects the qualification of ‘disability,' they don't have to explain to us why they made that qualification”.
As reported in the Dallas Morning News:
“Voters applying for mail ballots can check disability as their reason for seeking to vote by mail. But county elections administrators do not have the authority to investigate or question that answer further.
State law essentially places in a voter’s hand the determination of whether in-person voting will cause a likelihood of injury due to a physical condition.”
OK, so I believe I meet the criteria to vote by mail in Texas. How do I apply?
There are two ways to request an application for a ballot by mail.
One: You can head on over to the Texas Secretary of State website and fill out a quick form to have the application mailed to you.
Two: Fill out the application online in its entirety. Then, print it off and email it, mail it or fax it to your county elections administrator.
On your application, you can check the box to vote by mail for all elections during the calendar year or you can choose a specific election.
What’s The Deadline To Request a Mail Ballot?
Your application for ballot by mail must be received by your county election administrator by the eleventh day before an election.
For the July 14, 2020 primary, your application must be received July 2.
For the November 3, 2020 general election, your application must be received by October 23, 2020.
Once I get my ballot, when does it need to be returned?
According to the Texas Secretary of State:
For the July 14, 2020 primary:
Tuesday, July 14, 2020 (Election Day) at 7:00 p.m. if carrier envelope is not postmarked, OR Wednesday, July 15, 2020 (next business day after Election Day) at 5:00 p.m. if carrier envelope is postmarked by 7:00 p.m. at the location of the election on Election Day (unless overseas or military voter deadlines apply.
For the Nov 3, 2020 general election:
Tuesday, November 3, 2020 (Election Day) at 7:00 p.m. if carrier envelope is not postmarked, OR Wednesday, November 4, 2020 (next business day after Election Day) at 5:00 p.m. if carrier envelope is postmarked by 7:00 p.m. at the location of the election on Election Day (unless overseas or military voter deadlines apply.
If have questions about voting in Texas, call the Secretary of State’s Elections division a call at 1-800-252-8683.
Related: 10 reasons you need to vote