Ways to Prevent Your Election Mail-In Vote from Being Rejected
Yes, Texas can reject your mail-in ballot. It happened to me. How to make yours count.
BY BUD KENNEDY UPDATED SEPTEMBER 06, 2020 9:26 PM
Yes, your mail-in vote can be rejected. Mine was. But here’s how to make your vote count, and you should start now. My vote in the July 14 runoff and city election didn’t count. So don’t make the same mistake I did.
I signed both my application and mail ballot envelope, but not the same way. Also, I was sloppy, signing one with a ballpoint and the other with a Sharpie.
What can I say? It was my first time to vote by mail. So before I go any further, here’s exactly what you need to do right now to make sure your vote will count in this general election:
Fill out an application to vote by mail and — this is important — snap and keep a photo of your signature so you can sign your ballot envelope exactly the same way. And both should match the signature on your voter card.
Bring your application personally any weekday to 2700 Premier St., Fort Worth, the county election office.
Anyone age 65 or older can get a mail ballot this way, or just by mailing in the application.
If you’re younger, you can still get a mail ballot if you have any disability (or pregnancy) where voting in person would be a likely health risk. No questions asked. You don’t list anything on the form. Voters get a sticker in elections to encourage others to vote. Rodger Mallison Star-Telegram archives
To quote the exact law, if you have any disability where voting creates a “likelihood” of injuring your health, then go ahead and bring an application on in personally to 2700 Premier St. If you’ll be away during the election, you can also get a mail ballot sent to an address outside the county. That includes students away at college.
The day your ballot arrives in the mail, do not wait. Go ahead. Vote. Mark your choices. Use a blue or black ballpoint pen. Be really careful. When you seal and sign the envelope, make sure your signature matches that application and your voter card. Then, absolutely do not waste any time. Bring it back personally that very day to the election office (It’s off Interstate 35W near 28th Street north of downtown.) That way, you don’t have to worry about the Postal Service. Waiting until Election Day is risky. Leave no doubt. (The faster you vote, the sooner you stop getting campaign calls.)
Make the Signatures Match
Now, here’s how my vote in the July 14 election was rejected. It was my first time to vote by mail. And I wasn’t careful. I didn’t sign the application exactly the same way I usually sign to vote. And I signed it with an unreadable scribble. Then I signed the envelope using the blurry Sharpie.
I took it lightly. Now I know more. There’s an election judge and a panel of election workers. They have to check, match and approve every signature on a mail ballot. They divvy up the ballots to check them all. If the signatures don’t match, the whole panel votes. I took a look at the 51 ballots rejected during the runoff, 0.2% of the total votes cast. With each party separately reviewing its own primary runoff ballots, the Republican judges were almost three times tougher on ballots than the Democrats, rejecting 0.42% of ballots to 0.15%. That’s intentional. “If it’s even just close, our instruction to judges is to challenge it,” Tarrant County Party Chairman Rick Barnes said. For the general election, the review panel includes judges from all parties.
Don’t Leave Judges Guessing
Now, I’m going to be honest: I was upset when I found out my vote wasn’t counted. I wanted to investigate election fraud. But then I looked at the others rejected. On 46 of the 51, I agreed. I found two Democratic and two Republican ballots like mine, where the handwriting appears to match even if the signatures aren’t exact. Those should have been accepted under guidelines from the Texas Secretary of State.
If you are registered to vote in a different county, send to that elections office. For questions, call or see tarrantcounty.com. tarrantcounty.com But most of the ballots were rejected for some other reason. Several times, spouses or family members at the same address got the sealed envelopes confused and signed each others’ envelopes. On other rejected ballots, a voter didn’t sign the application or envelope at all. One used a rubber stamp. Sometimes, the handwriting obviously didn’t match. On others, it was so poor it was tough to tell. All I can tell you is, take mail voting very seriously. This is not like signing a greeting card to a friend. This is your vote. If the same percentage of mail votes are rejected in the November election, that will mean 120 votes won’t count. Make sure yours does.
This story was originally published September 4, 2020 10:06 AM.