Election Outlook: Voters who do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID have additional options at the polls  |  More about Identification Requirements for Voting  |  Voter Information  |  Voting Issues for Texas Harvey Evacuees
Elections and Voter Information

Voter Information

Annual Application for Ballot by Mail FAQs & Early Voting Roster Information

To: All County Clerks and Election Administrators
From: Keith Ingram, Director of Elections
Date: September 12, 2014
RE: Annual Application for Ballot by Mail FAQs & Early Voting Roster Information

In addition to providing general information on early voting rosters (see the final page of this memo), this is an updated version of the FAQ initially posted in December 2013. After gathering feedback and receiving further questions from counties since that time, we have adjusted some of the procedures regarding the Annual ABBM.  We would recommend that you adjust your processing of the Annual ABBMs as necessary, going forward from the issuance of this updated FAQ. The majority of changes are to the sections entitled “Processing an Annual ABBM by Early Voting Clerks” and “Cancellation of Annual ABBMs.”

Background:  The 83rd Legislature enacted legislation adding Section 86.0015 to the Texas Election Code.  New Section 86.0015 provides an option for voters who are voting by mail because they are 65 years of age or older or are disabled to make a single application for ballot by mail for a calendar year.  [Tex. H.B. 666, 83rd Leg., R.S. (2013)]  The Office of the Secretary of State is referring to this type of application as an “Annual ABBM,” and we will use this language in our calendars and other advisories.  Beginning January 1, 2014, voters in the categories noted above will be able to apply to the county early voting clerk for all elections held in the calendar year for which the county clerk or elections administrator is the early voting clerk and the voter is eligible to vote, using a single annual application for a ballot by mail. 

The Office of the Secretary of State has edited our application for ballot by mail to reflect these legislative changes, and this application is available on our website.  Also, counties may submit requests for copies through our office by sending an email or ordering copies online. Please note this form may be used by for voters seeking to request a regular ballot by mail or an Annual ABBM.  Outside of the new deadline to submit an ABBM under S.B. 910, procedures for processing a regular ballot by mail did not change. We only address procedures for submitting and processing an Annual ABBM in these FAQs:

Forms

Q:    May election officials use their current stock of ABBMs?
A:    Yes, but we strongly recommend using the new form as there are many changes from the old form.  The 83rd Legislature enacted S.B. 910, in addition to H.B. 666, which changed the deadline for the application for ballots by mail.  If you use old stock, at a minimum you will need to manually edit the instructions to reflect the new deadline of the 9th day before the election per S.B. 910.

Voter Qualifications for Annual ABBM

Q:    Who may apply for an Annual ABBM?
A:    Only voters that are voting by mail on the grounds of age or disability may submit an Annual ABBM. If a voter is voting by mail due to confinement in jail or an absence from the county during the election period, the voter may only submit an ABBM for a single election.  [§ 86.0015(a)(1)]

Q:    May a voter under 65 years of age submit an Annual ABBM if the voter will turn 65 before the first election in which they will vote by mail?
A:    Yes.  Under the Texas Election Code, a voter must be “65 years of age or older on election day” to vote early by mail.  [§ 82.003]

Q:    Does a voter who is voting by mail on the grounds of age or disability automatically qualify for an Annual ABBM, or must the voter indicate that he or she wants the application to be treated as an Annual ABBM?
A:    The voter must indicate that the voter wants the application to be treated as an Annual ABBM; you should not treat it as an Annual ABBM merely because the voter is voting by mail on the grounds of age or disability. See Processing an Annual ABBM by Early Voting Clerks, below.

Submittal Period for Annual ABBM and Length of Validity

Q:    When may a voter that qualifies for an Annual ABBM submit their application?
A:     Voters may begin to submit Annual ABBMs on or after January 1 of the calendar year in which the voter wishes to receive ballots.  [§ 86.0015]

Q:    How long is the Annual ABBM valid?
A:    The Annual ABBM is valid from the time the early voting clerk receives it until the end of the calendar year or until the voter submits a change in registration information. Thus the Annual ABBM expires on December 31 of the year in which it was submitted, regardless of when it was submitted to the early voting clerk.  [§ 86.0015(b)]

Q:    Is the Annual ABBM sufficient for all elections in which the voter is eligible to vote?
A:    No.  An Annual ABBM may only be submitted to the county early voting clerk, and it entitles a voter to receive ballots only for those elections where the county clerk or elections administrator (“EA”) serves as the early voting clerk, either because the county clerk/EA is designated as the early voting clerk by law or through a joint election agreement or contract for election services.    [§ 86.0015(b), 83.001, et seq.]

Q:    May voters submit an Annual ABBM anytime throughout the calendar year?
A:    Yes.  Similar to an FPCA, voters may submit an Annual ABBM anytime during the calendar year.  [§ 86.0015(b)]  However, an Annual ABBM must be received at least 9 days before the first election in which the voter seeks to request a ballot by mail.  [§84.007(c)]. Note that for elections held on a Tuesday, the 9th day falls on a weekend, and the deadline to submit the application would be moved to the 11th day before election day.

Delivery of Annual ABBMs to Early voting clerk

Q:    How can a voter submit an Annual ABBM?
A:    There is no change in the law on how a voter will submit their Annual ABBM vs. a regular application for ballot by mail:

In Person: Only the applicant may submit their application in person to the early voting clerk until the early voting period begins. However, after the early voting period begins for an election, the applicant may only submit their application via mail, fax or common contract carrier.
By Mail: An application may be mailed via the U.S. Postal Service.
By Fax: An application may be faxed to the early voting clerk.
By Common Contract Carrier:  An application may be submitted via a common or contract carrier which is a bona fide, for profit carrier.  [§84.007, § 84.008]

Witnessing/Assistance of Annual ABBMs

Q:    How many Annual ABBMs may a person witness in a calendar year?
A:    Unless a close relative, a person may witness one regular ABBM per election in a calendar year, or one Annual ABBM for the entire calendar year.  [§ 84.004]

Q:    May an assistant fax or mail a voters’ Annual ABBM?
A:    Yes, if the assistant completes the Assistant portion of the application.  [§ 84.003, § 84.007]

Q:    May Annual ABBMs be faxed and/or mailed from a political campaign building/headquarters?
A:    Yes.  While there are legal prohibitions on mailing a ballot carrier envelope, there are no legal prohibitions on faxing or mailing applications from campaign headquarters.  However, a campaign worker faxing or mailing the applications on behalf of the applicants must complete the assistance portion of the ABBM.  [§ 84.003, § 84.007]

Processing an Annual ABBM by Early voting clerks

Q:     What if a voter does not check any boxes in Box 6a?
A:     It depends on the elections being held within that calendar year. If it is a primary election year, e.g. 2014, and the voter did not select which party’s ballot they would like to receive, the application should be rejected for purposes of the primary election, but retained and considered an Annual ABBM for other elections held by the early voting clerk that year.  If it’s an odd-numbered year, e.g. 2015, and the voter did not select any elections, the application would be considered an Annual ABBM. The early voting clerk should send the voter a notice stating that the ABBM will be rejected for purposes of the primary and/or primary runoff election as no party was indicated, and if the voter wishes to vote by mail in (either or both of) those elections, the voter may submit a new ABBM. We are currently drafting a new notice to be used for this purpose and will place it on our website as soon as it is available.  [§ 86.0015(a)]

Q:    What if a voter clearly requests an “Annual ABBM” by checking the box marked “Annual,” but does not specify which party’s primary ballot they wish to receive?
A:    Just as in the scenario in the Q&A directly above, if it is a primary election year, e.g. 2014, and the voter did not select which party’s ballot they would like to receive, the application should be rejected for purposes of the primary election, but retained and considered an Annual ABBM for other elections held by the early voting clerk that year.  If it’s an odd-numbered year, e.g. 2015, and the voter did not indicate a primary preference, the application would be considered a good Annual ABBM. The early voting clerk should send the voter a notice stating that the ABBM will be rejected for purposes of the primary and/or primary runoff election as no party was indicated, and if the voter wishes to vote by mail in (either or both of) those elections, the voter may submit a new ABBM.  We are currently drafting a new notice to be used for this purpose and will place it on our website as soon as it is available.  [§ 86.0015(a)]

Q:    What if a voter indicates the voter wants the application to be an Annual ABBM and also explicitly indicates s/he wants a ballot for an election in which the county is not serving as the early voting clerk?  For example, the voter marks “Annual ABBM” but also writes in the name of a specific city’s election, and the county is not running the election for that city.  How should the county handle such an Annual ABBM?
A:     Per Section 84.001(d-1) of the Code, a timely application that is addressed to the wrong early voting clerk shall be forwarded to the proper early voting clerk not later than the day after the date it is received by the wrong clerk. Thus, in the scenario above, the county would send a copy of the Annual ABBM to the appropriate city secretary.  It may be worth highlighting the section of the Annual ABBM that refers to the city’s election on the copy forwarded to the city secretary, in an effort to alert the city secretary that that is the only portion of the Annual ABBM that applies to the city (there is no Annual ABBM for entities other than the county early voting clerk). In other words, the otherwise complete ABBM will function like a regular non-annual ABBM for the city election once forwarded to the city.

NOTE:  This is the only scenario in which the county would be forwarding the Annual ABBM to another entity. As a general rule, the county should NOT be forwarding the Annual ABBM’s to other entities in whose elections the voter may be eligible to vote (unlike with the FPCA, which must be forwarded to the school district and city early voting clerks if the FPCA voter is eligible to vote in those elections, regardless of what the voter notates on the form.) [§ 86.0015]).

Q:    If a voter “requests” all ballots for the year by failing to mark any election in odd-numbered years, or only marking a primary in even-numbered years, does the early voting clerk need to send the voter any notice letting them know that their application will be treated as an Annual ABBM?
A:     No.  However, if the early voting clerk would like to send the voter such a notice, they may do so.  [§ 86.0015]

Q:    What if a voter checks all of the boxes in Box 6a?
A:     It depends on if the voter declared one political party or checked the boxes for both the Democratic and Republican primaries. If the voter checks all the boxes, and correctly declares only one party for receipt of a primary ballot, this should be considered an Annual ABBM.  If the voter checks all boxes and both political parties, the early voting clerk should reject the application for purposes of the primary and runoff elections but maintain the application for other elections held in the calendar year.  In addition, the early voting clerk should notify the voter of the reason of the “partial” rejection and provide guidance on how to properly re-apply. We are currently drafting a new notice to be used for this purpose and will place it on our website as soon as it is available.  [§ 86.0015, § 86.001]

Q.    What if a voter marks as the reason for requesting a ballot by mail “65 years of age or older” or “Disability” AND “Expected Absence from the County,” and puts an address outside the county as the address to which the voter wants the ballot mailed?
A.     If the mailing address is not the voter’s registered residence or mailing address and there is no indication that the address is that of a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility, long term care facility, retirement center, or a relative, then this should be treated as a single-use ABBM but not as an Annual ABBM.  Note that only voters voting for the reason of age or disability are entitled to apply for an annual ABBM, and those voters must have their ballot sent to their registered residence or mailing address, the address of a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility or long term care facility, retirement center, or to a relative. You may wish to send the voter a notice that the ABBM will not be treated as an Annual ABBM.

Q:    What happens when the county receives multiple applications from an individual?
A:    Please see below for various possible scenarios:

Scenario 1:  A voter who is eligible for an Annual ABBM sends in multiple applications for a ballot by mail. The first one reflected a single choice for an election, and the second application selects “Annual Application.”
Answer:  In this case, the first application would be valid for one election.  Once the second application was received (for an Annual ABBM), the voter should receive all ballots for the remainder of the calendar year. 

Scenario 2:  A voter who is eligible for an Annual ABBM sends in multiple applications for a ballot by mail. The first one did not reflect any choice for any elections, and the second application reflects a choice for a single election.
Answer:  In this case, if the voter first submitted an Annual ABBM, they are entitled to receive all ballots in the calendar year.  As long as all of the remaining information on the second application (such as the voter’s reason for voting, residence address, etc.) is the same, the second application should be treated as a duplicate.  The early voting clerk may send a note that the voter is already set to receive the ballot due to their Annual ABBM.

Scenario 3: A voter who is eligible for an Annual ABBM sends in multiple applications for a ballot by mail. The first one has only one boxed checked for “Republican Primary,” and the second application has only one boxed check for “Democratic Primary” (or vice versa).
Answer:  In the case where the voter provides two applications with different primaries checked, the second application for ballot by mail will cancel the first application.  A letter may be sent to the voter informing them of this action.  Note that if you have already sent the voter a ballot in response to the first application, if the voter returns that ballot, remember that it has been cancelled and should NOT be sent to the early voting ballot board to be counted.

Processing an Annual ABBM by Voter Registrars

Q:    How should Voter Registrars notify early voting clerks of changes in registration that may cancel an Annual ABBM?
A:    Before every election, the Voter Registrar should provide an updated List of Registered Voters to the early voting clerk. The early voting clerk should compare the list of Annual ABBM voters to the List of Registered Voters, and work with the Voter Registrar to resolve any discrepancies. See the questions in “Cancellation of Annual ABBMs,” below, for how to proceed when changes in registration information are noted.

Q:    What if the early voting clerk receives information that a voter may have been convicted of a felony, deemed mentally incompetent, or has registered in a new county?
A:    As stated above, prior to every election the Voter Registrar should provide an updated List of Registered Voters to the early voting clerk. The early voting clerk should compare the list of Annual ABBM voters to the List of Registered Voters, and work with the Voter Registrar to resolve any discrepancies. It is possible that a voter may no longer be a qualified voter under § 11.002.  If, after the investigation, the voter is not entitled to vote by mail, the early voting clerk should reject the application under § 86.001.

Q:    What if the early voting clerk receives information that a voter may be ineligible due to death, but the Voter Registrar has not yet officially received an abstract of death?
A:    As stated above, prior to every election the Voter Registrar should provide an updated List of Registered Voters to the early voting clerk. If the voter is still on the List of Registered Voters, but the early voting clerk believes this is incorrect, they should notify the Voter Registrar and initiate an investigation. If, after the investigation, the voter is not entitled to vote by mail, the early voting clerk should reject the application under § 86.001.

Cancellation of Annual ABBMs

Q:    When a voter submits new registration information, will they need to re-submit their Annual ABBM?
A:    Yes.  When a voter submits a change in their registration information under § 15.021, their Annual ABBM will no longer be valid for future elections. This would include a change in the voter’s address or name.  [§ 86.0015].  The early voting clerk should note on the Annual ABBM that it was cancelled, the date of cancellation, and (recommended) that it was cancelled for this reason.  The early voting clerk may but is not required to send the voter a notice informing the voter that due to changing their voter registration information under Section 15.021, the Annual ABBM has been cancelled and the voter must submit a new ABBM for future elections if the voter wishes to vote by mail in those elections. We have created new form AW5-18a (PDF), “Notice of Cancelled Annual Application for a Ballot by Mail,” which may be used for this purpose.  You may wish to send the voter a new ABBM along with this notice.

Q.    If a voter submits a change in registration information (thereby cancelling the voter’s Annual ABBM, see the Q&A directly above) at a time when the county has mailed the voter a ballot but before the ballot has been returned by the voter, does this have the effect of invalidating that ballot if and when the voter sends it back in? 
A.    Yes. The Annual ABBM is cancelled, and the ballot, if returned by the voter, should not be sent to the early voting ballot board.  As is the normal procedure when a voter cancels an ABBM, the early voting clerk must remove the applicant’s name from the early voting roster.   [§§  84.032, 83.035, 84.036].

Q.    If a voter submits an Annual ABBM, but then the balloting materials you send to the voter for a subsequent election are returned as undeliverable, does this have the effect of cancelling the Annual ABBM?
A.    Not necessarily.  We recommend that you notify the Voter Registrar that you have information that the voter may have moved, thereby prompting the Voter Registrar to send the voter a confirmation notice.  If the voter responds to the confirmation notice by acknowledging that the he or she has moved, this will be treated as a change in registration information under Section 15.021 and have the effect of cancelling the voter’s Annual ABBM (see the questions above for more on this scenario). If the voter does not respond to the confirmation notice, this will have the effect of putting the voter on Suspense. In this case, you should keep the Annual ABBM on file, but send the voter a Statement of Residence along with the balloting materials for the next election.

Q:    What if a voter submitted an Annual ABBM, but then brings his or her ballot to the polling place and cancels the mail ballot?  Does that cancel the Annual ABBM for the rest of the calendar year or just for that election?
A:    Yes, the Annual ABBM will be cancelled for the rest of the year.  [§ 84.032(d)].  We recommend that the Early voting clerk make a notation on the Annual ABBM that it was cancelled for this reason.  The new version of form AW5-17, “Request to Cancel Application for a Ballot By Mail,” (PDF) informs the voter that cancelling their application will have the effect of cancelling any Annual ABBM the voter has submitted, and the voter must submit a new ABBM for future elections if the voter wishes to vote by mail in those elections.

Q:    If a voter votes provisionally, either under Section 63.011(a-1) of the Code (in which a voter who was sent a ballot by mail votes in person, stating on the provisional affidavit that the voter is registered in the precinct in which s/he is seeking to vote and did not vote by mail) or for any other reason, does this cancel the voter’s Annual ABBM?
A:    Yes.  When the ballot board returns the List of Provisional Voters to the custodian of the election records, the early voting clerk (if that person is not the custodian of the election records), should request a copy of the List of Provisional Voters.  The early voting clerk should cancel the Annual ABBM’s of each voter who appears on the List.  We recommend that the early voting clerk make a notation on each Annual ABBM thus cancelled of the reason for cancellation. Note that this is the case regardless of whether the ballot board actually counted the provisional ballot.

The new version of form AW8-17, “Notice of Outcome to Provisional Voter,” (PDF) (mailed by the presiding judge of the early voting ballot board) informs the voter that by voting provisionally, the voter has cancelled the annual ABBM and must submit a new ABBM for future elections if the voter wishes to vote by mail in those elections.

Q.    If the early voting ballot board rejects a voter’s by mail ballot because the carrier envelope was not signed or for some other reason, does this have the effect of cancelling the voter’s Annual ABBM?
A.    No.

Public Information Requests, and Annual ABBMs

Q:    When would an Annual ABBM become a public record?
A:    Neither a copy nor the original of an Annual ABBM is public information until the first business day after the election day of the last (final) election for which the application is valid (i.e., the last election in the calendar year).  [§ 86.014]

Early Voting Rosters

Background Information on Early Voting Rosters:  There are basically three categories of early voting information: (1) Early Voting in Person Rosters, (2) Early Voting by Mail Rosters, and (3) Applications for Early Voting by Mail. Different rules apply for when the information becomes public.

Early Voting in Person Roster  - The early voting roster of who has voted early by personal appearance must be made available for public inspection not later than the beginning of the next regular business day after the voter voted early in person. [§ 87.121(g)].

Early Voting By Mail Roster – The information on this roster tells you who has voted by mail in a given election.  Information on the roster for a person who votes by mail is not available until the ballot has been returned to the Early voting clerk or until the first business day after election day, whichever is earlier. [§ 87.121(f) & (h)]. There is an exception to this general rule that allows the voter himself or herself to review the roster to verify that his or her own information is accurate. [§ 87.121(f)].

Please note that there is a distinction between mail ballots which have been returned . [§ 87.121(h)] and mail ballots which have not yet been returned [§ 87.121(f)]. Information on the roster about mail ballots which have been voted and returned is available sooner:  not later than the day following the day the Early voting clerk receives the ballot voted by mail. Information about mail ballots which have not yet been returned is available later: not earlier than the first business day after election day (reflecting the greater security concerns about a mail ballot which is still out in circulation).

We suggest that you maintain two rosters for mail-in voters - one roster for ballots that have been mailed and returned, and a second roster of voters who have ballots mailed, but not received.

Applications for Early Voting by Mail - A copy of an application for a ballot to be voted by mail is not available for public inspection, except to the voter seeking to verify that the information pertaining to the voter is accurate, until the first business day after the election day of the latest (final) occurring election for which the application is valid. [§ 86.014(a)].   In light of the legislative intent behind Section 86.014(a), we have also interpreted Section 86.014(b) as requiring that the original application to vote by mail is not available for public inspection until it is delivered to the general custodian of election records after the latest (final) occurring election for which the application is valid.  See the Public Information Requests and Annual ABBMs FAQ, above.