FAQs for Voting by Mail
Click on each question to be directed to the answer.
- What are the qualifications for voting by mail in Texas?
- Can I vote by mail if I’m concerned about the risk of contracting COVID-19 by voting in person?
- How do I get a ballot by mail?
- I received a ballot by mail for the primary election, so why haven’t I received my ballot for the November election?
- How do I complete my mail-in ballot?
- Where can I take my mail-in ballot if I don’t want to mail it?
- How do I know if the elections office has received my mail-in ballot?
- What is the deadline for the Hays County Elections office to receive my mail-in ballot?
- What happens to my mail-in ballot after the elections office receives it?
- I can’t remember if I put my ballot in the extra internal envelope or if I just put it in the carrier mailing envelope. Will my vote count?
- What are the most frequent reasons for rejecting a mail-in ballot?
- When will my mail-in ballot be counted?
- What should I do if I have a mail-in ballot but I want to vote in person instead?
- Why can’t everyone in Texas vote by mail?
What are the qualifications for voting by mail in Texas?
To be eligible to vote by mail in Texas you must
- be 65 years or older
- be disabled
- be out of the county on election day and during the period for early voting by personal appearance or
- be confined in jail, but otherwise eligible
Can I vote by mail if I’m concerned about the risk of contracting COVID-19 by voting in person?
In a ruling in late May 2020, the Texas Supreme Court said that it is up to individuals to determine if they meet the disability requirement. Texas Election Code defines “disability” to include “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” (Texas Election Code § 82.002).
In reporting on the ruling the Texas Tribune wrote, “When voters cite disability to request an absentee ballot, they’re not required to say what the disability is. The voters simply check a box on the application form, and if their application is properly filled out, local officials are supposed to send them a ballot. The state ultimately conceded that officials can’t reject those voters.” County elections administrators cannot question or deny a voter’s claim of disability.
How do I get a ballot by mail?
- Complete sections 1-4 with your personal information.
- In section 5, check the box that qualifies you to receive a ballot by mail. If you have determined that voting in person could injure your health as defined in Texas Election Code, check “Disability” in box 5 but do not write anything else in that area. Do not list your disability, COVID-19, or anything else.
- In box 6a, check “Annual Application” so that you will automatically get mail-in ballots for the entire year.
- Be sure to sign your application in box 10.
- Mail your application to the Early Voting Clerk at the following address for Hays County:
Hays County Elections
712 South Stagecoach Trail
San Marcos, TX 78666
The Hays County Elections office must receive your application by 5 p.m. on Oct. 23 for you to get a mail-in ballot for the Nov. 3, 2020, general election. You can email a scanned copy of the application to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax it to 512-878-6699, BUT you must also mail the signed form to the early-voting clerk within four business days.
I received a ballot by mail for the primary election, so why haven’t I received my ballot for the November election?
To receive a ballot by mail for each election in a given year, you must select “annual application” when you applied. Check with the Hays County Elections office or submit a new application before the Oct. 23 deadline. You can email a scanned copy of the application to email@example.com or fax it to 512-878-6699, BUT you must also mail the signed form to the early-voting clerk within four business days.
How do I complete my mail-in ballot?
- The ballot comes in a large green envelope from the Hays County Elections office, so be sure to open it.
- Inside you’ll find your ballot, a white ballot envelope, a yellow mailer envelope, and other informational inserts.
- Use a black or blue ink pen to completely fill in the box next to the candidate’s name for whom you want to cast your vote.
- Fold your ballot, place it in the WHITE ballot envelope, and seal the envelope.
- Put the sealed white ballot envelope inside the YELLOW mailer envelope.
- Seal the YELLOW envelope, and BE SURE TO SIGN IT on the back. The elections office will reject any unsigned envelopes!
- Put a stamp on the envelope, and mail it before election day — the sooner the better! If more than one person in your household is voting by mail, you must send each ballot separately using the same procedure. Each envelope has an identifying barcode, and each signature on the back must match the signature the Hays County Elections office has on file.
- If you prefer to hand-deliver your ballot, take it to the Hays County Elections office at 712 South Stagecoach Trail in San Marcos. Look for the signs for where to park. You can drop off ONLY your own marked ballot and must present an acceptable form of identification.
Where can I take my mail-in ballot if I don’t want to mail it?
If you want to avoid using the postal service, you can hand-deliver your completed ballot to the Hays County Elections office at the Hays County Government Center, 712 S. Stagecoach Trail in San Marcos. Look for the signs for where to park. Voters can drop off ONLY their own marked ballot and must present an acceptable form of identification when doing so.
IMPORTANT: Texas Election Law does not allow for drop boxes, so do not deposit your ballot into any drop box, or your ballot will not be counted. You must either mail or hand-deliver your ballot to the county elections administrator (Texas Election Code 86.006).
The Hays County Elections office must receive mail-in ballots without a postmark by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. The office must receive ballots postmarked on or before Election Day by 5 p.m. on the day after the election.
How do I know if the elections office has received my mail-in ballot?
The Hays County Elections office maintains and updates daily a public list of mail-in ballots they have received. You can view the list and confirm receipt of your ballot at https://hayscountytx.com/departments/elections/current-year-elections/.
What is the deadline for the Hays County Elections office to receive my mail-in ballot?
If you hand-deliver your ballot, the Hays County Elections office must receive it by 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 3 (which correlates to the time that polling sites close). If you mail your ballot and it is postmarked by Nov. 3, the Hays County Elections office must receive it by 5 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 4.
What happens to my mail-in ballot after the elections office receives it?
The processing of mail ballots is safe and secure, so you can trust the process. The Early Voting Ballot Board (EVBB) is comprised of the chairs of the county political parties along with people they appoint. You likely know volunteers from the Hays County Democratic Party who serve on the EVBB, so be assured this process isn’t done in isolation or by government officials. All EVBB members swear an oath to uphold the integrity of the election process and work in pairs; for the general election the pair consists of a Democrat and a Republican. EVBB members work hard, respect each other and the process, and will process all the mail ballots in time for election night. All ballots are handled fairly, efficiently, and properly.
The EVBB meets as often as needed to process all the mail ballots. They verify that the signatures on the outer envelopes match the signatures on file, so be sure to sign your own ballot envelope. They are not looking to purposefully disqualify any ballots and will look for similarities in signatures over time in case a signature has changed slightly because of a medical condition or other reason. The EVBB rejects very few ballots, but if a ballot signature in no way matches the signatures from applications on file — perhaps a spouse signed the ballot instead — they notify the voter why the ballot is disqualified.
A more common problem is failure to sign the outer envelope. The EVBB must reject any envelope that isn’t signed, so please be sure to SIGN THE ENVELOPE.
After the EVBB verifies signatures on the majority of ballots received (although this process is ongoing), they open the outer yellow envelopes and separate the inner white ones. Because it is a secret ballot, they first put all the outer yellow envelopes into a big box (not discarded) so any identifiers are not correlated with the actual ballots. Then they open the white envelopes, remove the ballot and smooth it so it will go through the scanner, quickly glance at the marks to ensure they can be read by the scanner, and turn all the ballots the same way.
The EVBB then sends the mail ballots to the technicians for scanning. The mail ballots are not actually tabulated until election night, when other returns are coming in from all the polling sites, so no one will know the results until then. Overseas and military ballots may arrive a few days later, and a smaller contingency of EVBB members will meet to process them and deal with any provisional ballots that will be counted if eligible.
The election results are not final until seven days afterward and they are certified by the elections administrator and signed and certified by the chairs of the county political parties.
I can’t remember if I put my ballot in the extra internal envelope or if I just put it in the carrier mailing envelope. Will my vote count?
Yes, your ballot will count as long as you signed the carrier envelope in the space provided.
What are the most frequent reasons for rejecting a mail-in ballot?
The goal of the Early Voting Ballot Board is to ensure that votes count. If a ballot doesn’t count in Hays County, it’s typically because it isn’t signed, it’s received after the deadline, or the signatures don’t match. The signature on the ballot envelope must reasonably match the application signatures on file. You must sign your own application and ballot. The Ballot Board rejects very few mail-in ballots because of mismatching signatures. The elections office will contact you if your mail-in ballot is rejected and why it is rejected.
When will my mail-in ballot be counted?
Mail-in ballots start to be processed on the first Saturday after the start of early voting, but they are not tabulated until right before 7 p.m. on election day. Processing includes opening the ballots, verifying signatures, and scanning the ballots into the system. The actual tabulation of the votes doesn’t occur until 7 p.m. when polls close on election day. Mail-in ballots will be included in the early-vote counts announced on election day. Please mail or deliver your mail-in ballots as soon as possible rather than waiting for late on election day.
What should I do if I have a mail-in ballot but I want to vote in person instead?
The preferred method is to take your mail-in ballot to the elections office and complete the cancellation form, which will help alleviate delays at the polling sites. Otherwise, you can surrender your mail-in ballot at the polling site so it can be canceled in the database before you can vote in person. This process slows down the check-in system, so please try to do it during early voting and at a time when lines aren’t very long. If you can’t find your ballot or if you never received it, you can cast a provisional ballot in person. Your provisional vote will be counted after the election administrators determine that they never received your mail-in ballot. The elections office doesn’t discard canceled mail-in ballots but instead marks them as canceled and keeps them with the cancellation form.
Why can’t everyone in Texas vote by mail?
The Republicans in power want to remain in power and therefore want to limit convenient access to voting. Texas Republican leaders are continuing their efforts to block expansion of voting methods, effectively limiting some people’s access to voting and effectively engaging in voter suppression. The Texas Democratic Party has filed several lawsuits to end such disenfranchisement. You can keep up with their efforts at https://www.texasdemocrats.org/media/texas-democratic-party-lawsuits-challenging-republican-voter-suppression-efforts-and-protecting-voting-rights/.