County implements new vote-by-mail ballots

Staff Report

HAYS COUNTY — County Election officials want voters to be aware of the new state vote-by-mail ballots and process to ensure that every vote is counted.

“To vote by mail in Texas, you must qualify under one of the following categories,” said Jennifer Doinoff (formerly Anderson), elections administrator, in a news release. “Eligibility includes being age 65 or older, disabled (or have an illness) in a manner that prevents you from entering a polling location without injury to yourself, expected to give birth within three weeks before or after Election Day and confined in a jail or civilly committed but otherwise eligible to vote.”

If a voter meets any of those criteria, Doinoff said they can request that her office send a vote-by-mail ballot to their home address. She also explained that one the most important aspects of the new process is voters need to fill out the application completely.

Example of a mail-in ballot (photo provided by Hays County)

“New voting laws require a ballot by mail voter to include their Texas-issued ID number, or the last four digits of their Social Security Number (SSN) on the Application for Ballot by Mail Form,” Doinoff said. “The numbers provided must match the numbers on the voter’s registration file to be accepted.”

Many voters have both their identification and last four SSN digits on their voter registration file.

“We recommend entering both your Texas-issued ID and the last four of your Social Security Number on the application just to be safe,” Doinoff said. “You can also call the Hays County Election Office at 512-393-7310 to see what we have on file for you.”

She noted that the ID and SSN numbers will need to be entered on the voter’s application as well as on the ballot carrier envelope, which comes along with the ballot. Once a voter receives their ballot, they should complete it fully and accurately.

“After you complete your ballot,” Doinoff explained, “place it in the secrecy envelope then place that in the carrier envelope, which is white with a purple stripe.”

She added, “Before you seal the carrier envelope, lift the flap and fill in the blanks under the “Required Information” section.”

Doinoff said this was a step that some voters missed during the primary election and the information helps identify that the voter is the same person that requested the ballot.

“The section under the flap is where the voter will enter either their Texas-issued ID, or last four of their Social Security Number that matches the ID on their voter registration record,” she said. “Our office recommends that voters include both pieces of information.”

She said including both types of information on the application and the ballot carrier envelope with help alleviate the chances of ballot rejection.

“Once the voter has completed this portion of the carrier envelope, they can seal the flap, sign over the flap in the red box and mail the ballot back to the Hays County Election Office,” she said. “Both the ID number and the signature are required for the ballot to be accepted.”

Doinoff emphasized that the new legislation offers voters the opportunity to correct any defects on their ballot in enough time to be counted.

“Make sure you include your phone number and email address under the flap so we can contact you if you need to make a correction on your ballot envelope,” she said. “The Elections Office, or the Early Voting Ballot Board, can contact you to certify your ID or sign your ballot should you forget those items before your submission.”

Doinoff said there are several ways to correct a ballot envelope:

  • Go in person to your election office to certify your ID information within six (6) days after Election Day.

  • Go to www.votetexas.gov, and click “Track My Ballot” to certify your ID information within six (6) days after Election Day.

  • A voter may vote in person at any polling location, by cancelling their mail ballot.

“By contacting the Elections Office early, that will help make sure you have enough time to receive the packet, complete the ballot, fill out all the information on the envelope, mail it back and make any corrections if necessary,” Doinoff said. “But one of the best ways to ensure your vote counts is to completely fill in all of the requested information on the ballot and the ballot envelope.”

She also reminds voters that annual vote-by-mail applicants can apply every year in January to receive ballots for that year. Ballots must be received by the Hays County Elections Office by 5 p.m. the day after Election Day and postmarked no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.

“Our goal is to help all eligible vote-by-mail users to better understand the process,” Doinoff said. “Knowing this information will ensure that your ballot is accepted and counted in timely manner.”

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Megan Navarro (Wehring) graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. In June 2020, she started a summer internship at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch through the Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association. She then earned her way to a reporter position later that summer and now, she serves as the editor of the newspaper. Working for a small publication, Navarro wears multiple hats. She has various responsibilities including managing a team of reporters, making editorial decisions, overseeing social media posts, fact checking, writing her own articles and more. Navarro has a heart for storytelling and she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are important to the community.

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