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Ballots by Mail
[How the process works and how absentee ballots are handled]

• Applications for receiving a ballot by mail must meet one of the following requirements
The voter must be

- over 65 years of age;
- disabled;
- out of the county during Early Voting and on Election Day; or
- be incarcerated in jail but not yet convicted.

• Voters may request a ballot by mail for a specific election or, in some instances, an annual ballot by mail. If the voter is requesting an annual ballot by mail he or she must meet one of the first two criteria noted above.

• Voters who are requesting an annual ballot by mail must submit their request annually. They may submit their request at anytime after January 1st.

• Voters who are requesting a ballot by mail for a specific election must do so no earlier than 60 days prior to the election. All applications (whether annual or for a specific election) must be received by the Elections Division no later than close of business eleven days prior to Election Day.

• Applications for ballots by mail (absentee ballots) may be delivered in person by the applicant or mailed, delivered by common carrier, faxed, or sent by email to the Elections Division.

Attn: Ballots by Mail
C/O Dwight D. Sullivan
Galveston County Clerk
Post Office Box 17253 [By email]
Galveston, TX 77552-7253

(409) 765-3249 (Fax)

• Once an application is received it will be reviewed to determine whether the person is a registered voter in Galveston County and that the form is properly completed (e.g., has the voter signed the application).

• Once accepted, the Secretary of State’s TEAM system will be updated to show the voter has requested an absentee ballot (either for a specific election or an annual ballot).

• Upon completion of ballot programing and the Logic and Accuracy testing of the tallying equipment, absentee ballots will be prepared and mailed to the voters – overseas (FPCA) ballots first followed by ballots to local addresses.

• Following the L&A test, local absentee ballots are sent out no later than the week following the test. For those applications received after the L&A test has been completed the ballots are mailed within two business days after receipt.

• Ballots by mail must be returned to the Elections Division by mail or common carrier, and ballots being returned without sufficient postage will not be accepted. Absentee ballots may not be dropped off at a polling location or put in one of the county’s drop boxes. Absentee ballots may also be hand delivered to the Elections Division in Galveston, but only on Election Day. If a ballot is being hand delivered, it must be delivered only by the voter [not a friend, neighbor, etc.] and an acceptable form of photo identification must be presented by the voter.

• All absentee ballots must be received by the Elections Division by the last mail delivery on Election Day. [For Tuesday elections that is 4:00 p.m. and for Saturday elections that is 12 noon.]

Internal Processing of Ballots by Mail

• When a telephone request is received for an absentee ballot (be it for an annual ballot by mail or a request for a specific election) the Election Division will fill in most of the information for the voter [Name, Address, VUID Number, City, School & MUD codes, etc.] The application will then be mailed to the voter for he or she to complete, sign and return to the Elections Division.

• Upon receipt of a completed application for an absentee ballot, the Elections Division will review it to make sure it meets all the requirements spelled out in Chapter 86 of the Texas Election Code. If it does, then they will enter into the Secretary of State’s TEAM system that they have received a request for a ballot by mail.

• The Elections Division will subsequently scan the application into the AVID system and index it so that there is an electronic and retrievable copy of said application.

• If the absentee ballot application is received subsequent to the completion of the Logic and Accuracy Test and prior to the cut off (eleven days prior to Election Day) the ballot will be mailed to the voter within two business days of receipt of the application.

• The Elections Division uses automated folding and stuffing equipment to prepare the absentee ballot mail outs. The Division’s staff manually inspects ballots at random to ensure quality control and that the correct ballot is sent to each voter. [Previously, the process of preparing and mailing ballots was done manually -- see photos below!]

• When ballots are sent out, each one is logged into the Secretary of State’s TEAM system so that their status may be tracked.

• When a ballot is received back it is also logged into the TEAM system, the VUID number is scanned to allow the Division to have a complete list of absentee ballots received, and then the carrier envelope with the ballot enclosed is placed in a sealed ballot box.

The Old Way of Doing Things... Manual Labor! Manual Labor: 10 people worked two weeks Audimation cut the staff time to two to three people working half the time!
Automation reduced the staff time from ten people working two weeks to two-three people working half the time!

• When the Early Voting Ballot Board (EVBB) convenes, it is given a manifest listing all the ballots received and a document specifying how many absentee ballots are being transferred by the Election Custodian (e.g., the Elections Division) to it.

• The EVBB upon receipt of the ballots opens the sealed ballot can and counts the number of ballots, making sure that the number of ballots matches the number shown on the manifest and transfer document.

• The EVBB then starts to compare the signatures on the ballot’s carrier envelope against the signature found on the voters application for an absentee ballot. [While the EVBB is deliberating members of the County Clerk’s Office and the Elections Division are prohibited from being present in the room.]

• The EVBB determines which absentee ballots will be accepted for counting and which will be rejected. Each one of the voters whose ballot is being rejected is sent a letter by the Presiding Judge of the EVBB indicating why his or her ballot was rejected.

• The accepted ballots are separated from those that are being rejected.

• The rejected ballots are placed in a sealed ballot can. Those that are accepted are opened and the secrecy envelope (in which the ballot is enclosed) is removed and placed in a stack to be transferred to Central Counting. The reason this is done is so that members of the EVBB are unable to connect a voter to how he or she voted (maintaining the secrecy of the voting process).

• The EVBB then recounts the number of ballots accepted for counting and the number that have been rejected, ensuring the total of these two matches the number of ballots they received.

• The accepted ballots (secrecy envelopes) are then placed in a sealed ballot can and transferred to Central Count.

• The Presiding Judge of Central Count opens the sealed ballot can and then counts the number of ballots received – verifying that the number matches what the EVBB indicated it sent forward for counting.

• Central Count then opens the white secrecy envelope and removes the voter’s ballot, placing them in stacks of 50 in preparation for scanning.

• The Elections Division Tabulation Supervisor, working with the members of Central Count then scans the ballots and verifies that all of the ballots have been successfully scanned.

• If a ballot is ripped or the serial number was creased in the mail process and the ballot cannot be scanned, then central count will duplicate the ballot. In doing so they will work in teams of two. Both members of central count will verify that the voter’s choices were duplicated properly, initialing both ballots and cross referencing the serial number of both so they can be rechecked if doing so is deemed necessary. They also complete a log that contains this same information.

• Once all the ballots have been scanned into the secure computer in the Elections Division’s secure equipment room, the Tabulation Supervisor – with the approval of both the Presiding Judge and Alternate Judge of Central Count will auto resolve the under votes. [Contests were no choices were made by the voter.]

• Once this process is completed, the scanned ballots are reviewed for any over votes [e.g., places where the voter chose more than one person for the same office]. The members of Central Count will review these ballots and decide the will of the voter. (Since 2008 there have been absolutely NO debates over the will of the voter. It is usually very clear what the voter wanted.)

• Once this process is completed the scanned ballots (the cast votes record) are written to a mobile ballot box (an MBB which is like a floppy disc). The MBB is then locked up and not retrieved until after the polls close on election night.

• None of the absentee ballots (cast votes record) are tallied until after the polls close on Election Night so that nobody in Central Count or the Elections Division staff know the result.

• Regarding security: The secure equipment room is kept locked at all times when Elections Division staff are not present. Anytime a person from the Elections Division is in that room, another member of the staff (or the Presiding and Alternate Judge of Central Count) must also be present. This ensures integrity of the election process. In addition, none of the equipment in that room is connected to a network, nor is it wireless enabled and none of the equipment is connected to each other. Finally, all this equipment requires an encryption key in order to operate.