Absentee Ballot Correction Causes Some Voter Confusion

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After her daughter and another college student both got two sets of absentee ballots from Dallas County, Dallas mother and voting rights advocate Rebecca Bell Wilson sought to make sure parents of college students (and other absentee voters) knew why.

Anna Wilson was expecting her absentee ballot to arrive in her mailbox at Washington University in St. Louis sometime this month. But she was surprised to open her mailbox to find two envelopes bearing ballots from the Dallas County Elections Department.

“I think these were actually sent out at slightly different times,” the college student said. “I don’t always check my mailbox every day, but when I checked my mailbox this time I had two of these green envelopes.”

“I was confused, and wondered if these were two different ballots,” she said.

Luckily her mother, Rebecca Bell Wilson, spends a lot of time educating would-be and new voters, so a quick call home to Dallas got her an instant expert.

Kind of — because Mom’s gonna mom, after all.

“My daughter called and told me about these two envelopes, and I encouraged her to call the county elections department,” she said. “This is her first time voting in a general election, and I really wanted her to advocate for herself.”

One envelope had an orange sticker, which helped her determine the correct ballot.

“Mom said call county and they explained,” Anna said. “Once I actually opened the envelope, there was a letter explaining what happened, but it still didn’t really clarify what you should do if you had already sent the other ballot in.”

Anna said that without calling, it wasn’t really clear which envelope was the correct one.

“Even the sticker really didn’t say anything to indicate what the second envelope was for,” her mother said.

“Outside, wasn’t descriptive,” Anna said. “I think it just said reprint? Didn’t say anything like, ‘Send this one!’ or, “Ignore the other one!’”

“One of my friends who goes to George Washington University in D.C. got the same thing,” she added. “He texted me because he knows my mom is pretty involved with voting and elections and asked me what was going on, too.”

So what is going on?

Elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole said that new ballots had to be sent out to absentee voters after a name was left off the ballot.

“Corrected ballots were mailed to voters that were sent before we were advised by the Secretary of State of the missed certification of a Libertarian candidate name that should be on the ballot,” Pippins-Poole said Sunday. “According to the State procedures in the Texas Election Code Sec.86.009 , we can only send out a corrected ballot with the certified Notice of Correction prescribed by the State.”

That notice went out with the new ballot.

But what if a very eager voter had already returned the first ballot, and it was now winging (or trucking) its way back to Dallas County? And what if a voter sent the first ballot, but didn’t send in the second — does their vote still count? What if you sent in both?

“If the voter doesn’t return the corrected ballot, the original ballot will count,” Pippins-Poole explained. “The corrected ballot does have the orange label to alert our office that it is the corrected ballot that is being returned and the original ballot will be voided.”

She said the elections department phone number is also included in the paperwork in case the voter has questions or concerns, as well.

Both Anna and her mother were surprised that they hadn’t heard about the new ballots before they landed in Anna’s mailbox.

Rebecca took to Facebook last week to alert her friends, and asked them to spread the word.

“I have so many friends with college-age kids, and they need to know about this,” she said, adding that people with elderly or infirm friends and relatives should probably make sure that they understand which ballot is correct as well, and that the presence of two ballots in their mailbox isn’t a sign of something fraudulent.

Anna made sure she got the correct ballot mailed in time, and is proud to have voted in her first general election, even if it was while she was far from home. But she’s also glad her mom urged her to check with the county, first.

“It all worked out but definitely worked out later, but it was really confusing at first,” she said.

Mail-in ballots that do not have a postmark or delivery receipt must be delivered to the county by mail or another carrier by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots that are postmarked or have a delivery receipt showing the ballot was mailed from within the U.S. by 7 p.m. on Election Day have must arrive by 5 p.m. the next business day after Election Day.

You can also have your absentee ballot hand-delivered to the county elections office, but it must arrive by 7 p.m. Election Day.

Ballots mailed from overseas that are postmarked or accompanied by a delivery receipt showing it was mailed by 7 p.m. on Election Day must arrive by 5 p.m. on the fifth day after Election Day, or Nov. 12 this election, since the fifth day falls on a Sunday.

For more information about voting in Dallas County, visit DallasCountyVotes.org.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson lives in a 1961 Fox and Jacobs home with her husband, a second-grader, and Conrad Bain the dog. If she won the lottery, she'd by an E. Faye Jones home. She's taken home a few awards for her writing, including a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Online News Association, the Education Writers Association, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, and the Society of Professional Journalists. She doesn't like lima beans or the word moist.

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