DALLAS - North Texas is shattering records when it comes to requests for mail-in ballots. Elections administrators say that means there could be a very high turnout for the November presidential election.
Texas is one of only a few states that limit mail-in balloting to voters who meet specific requirements. People must be over 65, have an illness or disability, be in jail but not convicted of a felony, or will be out of the county on Election Day. They still have until Oct. 23 to request a mail-in ballot.
In the last presidential election, Dallas County had a total of 50,000 applications for mail-in ballots. They are not alone.
Right now, Denton County stands at 23,000 applications for mail-in ballots. Four years ago, that county mailed 12,363 ballots total.
Tarrant County is mailing 55,000 ballots this Friday in its first round. That compares to 43,000 total in 2016.
“We're probably looking at a 40% increase in mail balloting from like 21,000 to over 30,000,” explained Collin County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet.
County elections administrators say it’s because of COVID-19, high interest in the presidential election and more registered voters.
“We have 100,000 more registered voters than we did four years ago,” Sherbet said. “So that’s just naturally going to increase our numbers.”
But it does not change how mail-in applications are verified.
“In Texas, you still have a restrictive process where you have to qualify for voting by mail,” Sherbet said. “So as long as everything is complete on the application and it’s signed, then it’s processed.”
“We take the voter at their word when they check that they have a disability or illness that prevents them from going into the polling place,” said Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole. “So it is a legal document that you are signing.”
The spike in mail ballot application requests likely means an increase in total votes cast this election season. Administrators love to see it.
Qualified mail-in ballots must be counted if they are received by the time polls close on election night. In most cases, those results will be included in the Election Day totals.
There are a few exceptions, like if ballots are postmarked by Election Day but arrive later or in certain cases involving military voters.