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Emergency Ballot Procedures


County Clerks/Elections Administrators and County Chairs

From: Keith Ingram, Director of Elections
Keith Ingram's signature
Date: February 11, 2016


Emergency Ballot Procedures

We would like to take this time to remind you that you have the authority to create emergency ballots, and we would like 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 acquired. 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.

NOTE: County Chairs are responsible for ensuring there are enough ballots at polling places during the primary, unless the Chair contracted with their County Clerk/Elections Administrator for the distribution of ballots.

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 do 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 primary election, 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 county clerk/elections administrator. You may want to provide 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 is 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 for signing and numbering pieces of paper and allowing voters to utilize the sample ballot to write in their choices.

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.