Because ballots for this election cycle boast up to three pages, absentee voters or those sending ballots by mail will need to make sure the appropriate amount of postage is on the packet before mailing it back to the elections office.
“Yes, bigger mail pieces take more postage,” Elections Administrator Donald Robinette confirmed.
However, if ballots do have insufficient postage, the U.S. Postal Service will still deliver it to election officials, USPS representatives confirmed.
“The Postal Service’s number one priority between now and Election Day is the secure, on-time delivery of the nation’s Election Mail,” Albert Ruiz, spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service’s East Texas division, told the News Messenger Tuesday.
Ruiz explained that each state or local Board of Elections, if authorized, determines whether to provide voters with a pre-paid return envelope for mail-in ballots or request that voters apply their own appropriate postage. The Postal Service requires election officials to inform voters of the amount of postage required, if applicable.
“If a return ballot is nevertheless entered into the mailstream with insufficient or unpaid postage, it is the Postal Service’s policy not to delay the delivery of completed absentee balloting materials, including mail-in ballots,” said Ruiz.
“In cases where a ballot enters the mailstream without the proper amount of postage, the Postal Service will deliver the ballot and thereafter attempt to collect postage from the appropriate Board of Elections,” Ruiz said.
The last day for local election officials to receive ballot by mail application is this Friday, Oct. 23.
“No more applications will be accepted after that time,” elections administrator, Robinette, stressed.
Also regarding ballot by mail, Robinette advised that there’s a new rule for this election — only — if voters plan to drop off their ballots.
“A voter who has received a ballot by mail can bring their voted ballot in its sealed envelope to the office in person,” he explained. “It must be sealed in its yellow carrier envelope. The ballot should be inside the white secrecy envelope then placed into the yellow.”
Robinette said only one ballot is allowed per envelope.
“Spouses should mail their ballots separately or bring them in individually,” he said.
“If you bring your absentee ballot into the office in person, we will ask for a photo ID and also ask you to print and sign your name on a roster,” Robinette continued.
The elections administrator asked voters to please sign the yellow envelope legibly the way they normally sign their name, as it will be compared to the signature on their application.
“If it doesn’t look at least somewhat similar, it could be rejected,” he informed.
Robinette said another new rule allows a voter to bring their un-voted mail ballot to a polling place and turn it in and sign the proper documentation and receive a regular paper ballot.
“If it is an even exchange, you can go ahead and vote a regular ballot,” he said. “If you do not have the ballot to turn in, then you would be required to vote a provisional ballot instead, or else go home and get the one you received.”
The elections administrator warned against attempting to vote twice.
“It is a fraudulent crime to vote twice,” he said. “If you think you have the opportunity to vote twice, don’t do it. We will be watching to guard against that.”
Robinette urges voters to please comply with the rules in order to ensure a smooth process.
“We have spent many man hours and postage to serve people with a ballot by mail request,” he said. “It is really discouraging that all the effort, energy, and cost are totally lost if you are going to vote in person anyway. (It’s a) total waste of our time, of which we have little to spare.”
Robinette reminded that Harrison County’s drop box is only at the main elections office.
Pct. 2 County Commissioner Zephaniah Timmins shared that he had some concerns about his own ballot by mail when trying to drop it off at the elections office.
“I received my ballot in the mail,” Timmins told the News Messenger. “I decided I’d take my time at home, sign it and seal it and walk it in.
“When I walk it in, I’m told they’re going to void my ballot and I was going to have to vote provisional,” he said.
Timmins said he was curious as to why the rules kept changing.
“But one of the ladies recognized who I was and said: ‘Commissioner Timmins, you’re right; just sign right here and we’ll verify your ID,’” he said.
Timmins said he was told his ballot would be placed in a secured box.
“I’m just hoping that they put it in the ballot box,” he said.
“The people there handing out ballots were the ones telling people they were having to void those out and let them vote provisional,” said Timmins. “It’s wrong … and that’s supposed to be the easiest thing in the world is to go cast a vote.
Regarding Timmins’ concern, Robinette said there was some confusion over the turning in of mailed out ballots.
“According to the cancellation form, there are some situations where it is to be provisional and others situations where it is an even exchange,” he explained. “The only reason it could become a provisional is to check that a person is not voting twice.”
The elections administrator said election officials are striving to make sure everyone votes. He said he is seeking to humbly serve the public and resolve whatever issues are brought to his attention, if they are resolvable.
“We are not trying to prevent anyone from voting,” he said. “This office and all our poll workers are busting their rears to make sure that everyone does get to vote.”
Addressing other election matters, he noted that because of concerns of COVID-19, small pencils were initially given to voters only with the intent of them being discarded or taken with them once done.
“But we will immediately be going back to ink and then wiping the pens unless you want to use your own,” said Robinette.
He assured that the pencil marks were, however, accurately read by the scanner in a pre-election test.
“So there is no need to worry about that,” he said.
Early Voting Schedule
Early voting continues in Harrison County today through Oct. 30, with a weekend option as well at the main elections office.
On the ballot are federal, state, city, county and school elections. The three cities and five schools that have contracted with the elections office to help conduct their elections are: the city of Marshall, the city of Waskom, the City of Longview, New Diana ISD, Hallsville ISD, Elysian Fields ISD, Waskom ISD and Karnack ISD.
The seven early voting polling places for Harrison County are: Waskom sub-courthouse, 165 W. Texas Ave.; Harleton Community Center, 4335 Community St.; Hallsville’s Gold Hall Community Center, 101 E. Elm St.; ESD No. 9 in Elysian Fields, 130 Farm-to-Market Road 451; Woodland Hills Baptist Church, 2105 E. Loop 281; Karnack’s T.J. Taylor Community Center, 15642 Farm-to-Market Road 134; and the Harrison County Main Elections Office at 415 E. Burleson St. in Marshall.
Early voting will take place at all of the early voting sites from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. now to Oct. 22 and Oct. 26-Oct. 29. Extended early voting hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 and Oct. 30, which are both on a Friday. The weekend option at the elections office, only, will be Saturday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 25, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.