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Elections and Voter Information

Voter Information

Election Advisory No. 2012-18

To: County Elections Officers
(County Clerks/Elections Administrators/Tax Assessors-Collectors)
From: Keith Ingram, Director of Elections
Date: September 12, 2012
RE: Deadline to Mail November General Election Ballots and Emergency Ballot Procedures

Saturday, September 22, 2012 is the deadline for all ballots to be mailed outside the United States. As you know, these ballots must be mailed on or before the 45th day before election day, November 6, 2012. If a federal postcard application (FPCA) is received after the 45th-day deadline, the ballot should be mailed not later than the seventh calendar day after the date the FPCA is received. If an application for a ballot by mail is received after the 45th-day deadline from a voter who is not in the military or overseas, the ballot should be mailed not later than the seventh calendar day after the date the application is accepted. Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 86.004(b). If your official ballots are not ready to be sent by September 22, 2012, you must create and send emergency ballots. Please see below for emergency balloting procedures. It is not acceptable to miss the deadline and simply wait until your official ballots are ready to mail ballots outside the United States.

You have the authority to create emergency ballots. If you do not receive your ballots in time to meet the 45-day deadline, you may create your own paper ballots or, if you have a copy of the ballot in the Adobe .pdf format, which is often provided by the printer for your proofing, you may forward a copy to the voter. If you have a physical copy of the ballot and a scanner, you could scan the ballot and attach a copy of the scanned ballot to the email to the voter. If you have a copy of the ballot in Microsoft Word, you could attach a copy in that format. The main key is that it should be in a digital format that the average voter will be able to open and print.

This is also a great time to review the procedures for emergency ballots in the event a polling place runs out of ballots or experiences technical problems with a voting system. Under state law, once the polling place is open it must remain open. Having run out of ballots is not a ground for closing the polling place or suspending voting for a time until more ballots can be received. Therefore, we suggest that you advise election judges to monitor the number of ballots remaining throughout the day on election day and to contact you immediately if they run low. This memorandum provides the procedures on how to replenish a polling place’s ballot supply. Therefore, please distribute copies of this memorandum to each of your election judges.

Pre-Election Day

Regardless of what type of voting system your county uses, before election day your office may want to assess your early voting ballot supply for possible use on election day. If early voting by mail or personal appearance turnout has been heavy, you may want to consider having additional ballots prepared for possible use on election day in your polling places.

Paper and Optical Scan Ballots

If you find that a precinct is about to run out of ballots, whether paper or optical scan ballots, you have two options. One option is that the election judge contacts you and you rush additional ballots to the precinct. If you do not have additional election day ballots for that precinct, your office can use the early voting ballots for that precinct. If no ballots for that precinct are available, your office can make adjustments to the ballots of the same ballot style, if necessary, in accordance with Section 52.006 of the Texas Election Code.

The second option is for you or the election judge to take one of the unvoted official ballots and make copies. Before copying the official ballot, white out or obscure the ballot number printed on the ballot. The judge must sign the backs of the copied ballots and serially-number them, beginning with the next number from your ballot order. Please note that our office would prefer copies of an official ballot be used, but if you or the precinct election judge does not have any official ballots to copy when you first realize there is a shortage, copies of a sample ballot can be used instead. You should make a note on the ballot register form indicating how many emergency ballots you created and the range of numbers you used on the ballots created. If a copier is not available but you have some pieces of paper, you might be able to copy the ballot by hand. Keeping in mind the length of the ballot in the general election for state and county officers, rather than copy the ballot yourself, it might be more efficient to allow voters to write their choices on a piece of paper using the sample ballot available at the polling place. In this situation, the judge would sign and number a few pieces of paper and place them face down and out of numerical sequence on the table. The judge would explain to voters that the polling place has run out of ballots and allow them to pick one of the disarranged pieces of paper, just as they would choose one of the official ballots.

DRE Voting System

If your county is using a DRE voting system and the machine malfunctions, the election judge should follow the procedures set out by your office. In many cases, you may have provided the election judge with paper ballots at the polling place to use in emergencies or for provisional voters. If so, the election judge would simply continue using these ballots and make additional copies as needed. If the election judge was not provided with paper ballots, he or she will have to follow the procedure set out above under the paper and optical scan ballots section of signing and numbering paper and allowing voters to utilize the sample ballot to write in their choices.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to remind you that if people are waiting in line to vote at 7:00 p.m., they must be allowed an opportunity to present themselves for voting. If you have any questions, please contact our office toll-free at 1-800-252-2216.

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