Processing issue leads to returned ballots-by-mail in Hays County


Staff report

A processing issue at post offices in some areas of Hays County is believed to have led to some completed ballots-by-mail to be returned to residents, according to the Hays County Elections Office.

In a press release, the Elections Office received approximately 100 calls or visits by residents who have had ballots returned to them by mistake.

According to officials, the issue extended to post office equipment reading a white label containing the voter's name and address on the back of the ballot envelope, instead of the Elections Office address, which is located on the front.

“Any voter-by-mail who has not yet returned their ballot to the Elections Office or who receives one returned by the post office is asked to cross out the address only on that white label (name and bar code should remain visible) so that mail equipment can see only the address on the front of the envelope,” Joyce Cowan, Hays County Elections Administrator, said

She added post offices are looking into the issue and that staff is “crossing out the address proactively on that label before mailing a ballot package to voters.

“Some post offices are also gathering an sending ballots directly to us when they see this happening,” Cowan said. According to the release, Cowan has filed a complaint with the US Postal Service headquarters and is working with them as they investigate the issue.

“I’m told this problem is appearing in other areas of the state, and rather randomly, so it’s hard to figure out a reason,” Cowan said. “Not all return ballots are sent back from any particular post office that we know of. This is the same envelope and label required by state law that we’ve used for years.”

Cowan said since the envelope is canceled on the back, the postage stamp the voter placed originally can be reused when mailed again.

As of Oct. 19, the Elections Office has mailed out 4,571 ballots-by-mail and received 1,863 completed ballots.

Applications for ballots-by-mail must arrive in the Elections Office by Oct. 28 and completed ballots must arrive by Nov. 8. 

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