Table of Contents
Disability Rights Texas Handout
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Your Voting Rights & Accommodations
Alternative Voting Options
If you cannot vote in-person at the polling site on Election Day, you may find it easier to use one of the following alternative voting methods:
- Curbside Voting is available during early voting and on Election Day. If you are physically unable to enter the polling place without personal assistance or a likelihood of injuring your health, you may ask that an election officer bring a ballot to you at the entrance of the polling place or to a car at curbside. After you mark the ballot, give it to the election officer who will put it in the ballot box. Or, at your request, a companion may hand you a ballot and deposit it for you.
- Early Voting can be used if you find it difficult to vote at your assigned polling place on Election Day. You may choose to vote at a more convenient time and location by voting early. In response to COVID, early voting has expanded and will occur during the following dates: October 13-30, 2020 (November General election). You can vote early in-person during the early voting period, which begins on October 13 and ends four (4) days before Election Day.
- Vote by Mail is a method of conducting elections by mail. Instead of using traditional polling places where voters go to cast ballots on Election Day, you can have a ballot mailed to you if you are a registered voter and qualify to vote by mail. You then mark the ballot, and mail it back to the county clerk to be counted.
You have the right to complete a provisional ballot if there is any question about your eligibility. Voters whose eligibility is in question will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot that will be counted once election officials determine the voter is eligible.
Vote by Mail
What is vote by mail?
Vote by mail means that you can get a ballot mailed to you, mark it, and return it by mail to be counted.
Who is eligible to vote by mail?
Anyone who is a registered voter and who is:
- Going to be away from your county on Election Day and during early voting;
- Sick or has a disability;
- 65 years of age or older on Election Day; or
- Confined in jail but is still eligible to vote.
What qualifies as a disability to vote by mail?
- The Election Code defines “disability” to include “a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on Election Day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health.” Tex. Elec. Code § 82.002
- Disability Rights Texas takes the position that under current state and federal law, if you have a medical condition that puts you at higher risk if you contract COVID-19, (see the CDC list regarding people at higher risk for more information) then you are eligible for ballot by mail.
How do I obtain a vote by mail ballot?
- Send in a vote by mail application to your county’s early voting clerk. To get the name and address of the early voting clerk, you can contact the Secretary of State’s office at 1-800-252-8683.
- You can send in a vote by mail application by mail, delivery service, or in some cases, by FAX (if your county voting clerk’s office has a FAX machine and if you are submitting your application from outside the county). But no matter how you submit it, you must also send it by mail within four days of you email or fax submission.
- Also, if you are voting early because you will be gone on Election Day, you can apply in person at the county election official’s office to get a vote by mail ballot. You must do this in person, and before the first day of early voting.
How do I get a vote by mail application?
Get an official application from the Early Voting Clerk in your county, or from the Secretary of State’s office. You can also call those offices and have an application mailed to you. You can also download one at: http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/reqabbm.shtml.
- Contact DRTx and request that an Application for Ballot By Mail be sent to you.
Do I need to use the official application form?
No. You can send in a letter asking for a vote by mail ballot, as long as the letter is in writing, and includes:
- Your signature (or a witness’ signature if you cannot sign);
- Your name;
- The address where you are registered to vote;
- The address where you want the ballot mailed to (see below);
- The election date you want the ballot for;
- Which election you want the ballot for (and if it is a primary election, you must state the political party’s primary in which you wish to vote); and
- The reason why you are eligible to vote early by mail.
Can I have the ballot mailed to a different address than my home address?
Maybe. The general rule is that a ballot must be mailed to the address where you are registered to vote. However, if you say in your application that you are going to be away from your county on Election Day, you can ask that it be mailed to another address. Also, if you are age 65 or older, or have a physical disability, you can have your ballot mailed to a hospital, nursing home, long-term care facility, retirement center, or relative, but you must check the blank on the application form that says which address you are providing.
Can I ask someone to help me fill out the application?
Yes. If you need help filling out the form or mailing it, ask someone you trust. If someone helps you fill out the application, you must write that person’s name and address next to your signature on the application. The person helping you must also sign the application.
I have a visual impairment and cannot read a paper ballot. How do I get help?
Yes. You have the legal right to request an accommodation so that you may cast a private and independent ballot. Contact your county’s election office and request a mail-in ballot in large print, braille, or see if they have an electronic version that can be sent to you. If you have additional questions, contact DRTx for questions and/or assistance.
When do I apply for a vote by mail ballot?
You must submit your application to the early voting clerk at least seven (7) days, and no more than 60 days, before Election Day. If the seventh (7th) day before Election Day is on a weekend, the last day to submit an application is the Friday before that. It is a good idea to send in your application 50 or 60 days before Election Day. That way, you will have plenty of time to get your ballot, and if, for some reason, you don’t get your ballot, you will have time to request a replacement ballot.
What if my ballot doesn’t come?
If you are registered to vote and do not receive a ballot, call your county election’s office. They will check that your voter registration is current. If it is, they will mail you a replacement ballot.
What is the deadline to return a vote by mail ballot?
The early voting clerk must receive your marked ballot by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
EXCEPTION: If you are mailing your ballot from outside the United States, the early voting clerk must receive your ballot by the 5th day after Election Day, and you must mail it no later than 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.
How do I know if my ballot is received?
You may call your county election office and ask if they received your ballot. A record is kept showing each voter whose ballot has been returned.
When will we get the election results?
Ballot counting will not begin until Election Day.
Vote Early In-Person
Who is eligible to vote early in-person?
Any registered voter can vote early in person, for any reason.
How can I check to see if I’m registered?
To check to see if you are registered to vote, please visit:
What if I need to update my address?
Your next steps depend on whether or not you moved within the same county or to a new county. The SOS has additional information on its website. Regardless, you should be allowed to cast a ballot, even if it is limited, if you were registered to vote at your old address.
When is the early voting period?
You may vote during the early voting period which begins on October 13, 2020 and ends 4 days before Election Day.
Where can I vote early?
During the early voting period, you can vote at any early voting site that is convenient to you within your county. You don’t have to vote in your precinct.
How do I find out where the early voting polling places are located?
- Call your county’s early voting clerk.
- You can get the telephone number by looking in the government section of your telephone directory or by calling directory
- You can also call the Secretary of State’s office at 800.252.8683, or look on the internet at: www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/county.
How does curbside voting work?
If you are physically unable to enter the polling place, you can ask that an election officer bring a ballot to your car at the curbside, or to you at the entrance of the polling place. After you mark the ballot, give it to the election officer who will put it in the ballot box. Or, at your request, a companion may hand you a ballot and deposit it for you.
Should I call ahead?
It is a good idea to call ahead if you plan to go alone so the election official will be expecting you. If you can’t drive, think about having a friend or relative drive you to the polling station. Call your County Election Official and let them know you would like to vote early and your precinct number. The county official will notify the poll workers. You can find your County Election Official by calling the Secretary of State’s office at 1-800-252-8683, or look on the internet at: www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/county.
Who is eligible for curbside voting?
Any voter who is physically unable to enter the polling place without personal assistance or likelihood of injuring the voter’s health.
Where do I vote curbside?
You can vote from your car outside your polling place in the closest available parking area to the polling place.
When can I vote curbside?
It is available during early voting and on Election Day at every polling place.
Other Important Deadlines
- October 5 – Last day to register to vote
- October 13 – First day to vote early in-person
- October 23 – Last day to send in your application for a vote by mail ballot (Received by, not postmarked)
- October 30 – Last day to vote early in-person
- Election Day November 3 – 7 pm is the deadline for vote-by-mail ballots to be received, or if mailed from outside the U.S., 7 p.m. is the deadline to mail them.
- For the name, phone number, fax number or address of the early voting clerk in your county, go to http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/county.shtml
- For the dates and deadlines for most elections, go to http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/2004dates.shtml
- To get an Application to Vote by Mail go to: http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/reqabbm.shtml
General Rights & Accommodations
It is your right to cast a ballot privately and independently.
Special Voting Devices
- Beginning January 1, 2006, every polling place used in Texas elections must have at least one Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting device which is designed to assist voters mark their ballot in a private and independent manner. This applies to early voting places, too.
- DRE’s come with assistive attachments that allow voters with disabilities to vote independently.
- For example, a person with a visual impairment can use headphones in order to hear the ballot read to them, and a person with quadriplegia can ask for the sip and puff attachment which will allow them to select their candidates in a private manner.
- If you need help in reading or marking your ballot, you can ask a friend to help you vote, or you can ask the election officials to help you. You can choose anyone you want to help you, except your employer, an agent of your employer, or an officer or agent of your union.
- You are entitled to receive assistance if you cannot read or write, or if you have a physical disability that prevents you from reading or marking the ballot. You do not have to provide proof of your disability.
- If you ask the workers at the polling place to help you, you will be assisted by two election workers on Election Day, or one election worker during early voting.
- The person helping you must read you the entire ballot, unless you ask to have only parts of the ballot read. The person helping you must also take an oath that he or she will not try to influence your vote, and will mark your ballot as you tell them to.
- If you choose to be assisted by polling place officials, poll watchers and/or state and federal election inspectors present in the polling place may observe the voting process to be sure that the ballot has been marked as you requested. If you ask to be assisted by a person of your choosing, no one else may watch you vote.
- It is illegal for a person assisting you to try to influence your vote, to mark your ballot in a way other than the way you have asked, or to tell anyone how you voted.
- If you do not understand the language being spoken in the polling place or you do not understand the language that the ballot is written in, you have the right to an interpreter.
- If you cannot speak English, or if you communicate only with sign language, you may use an interpreter to help you communicate with election officials.
- If you cannot read the languages on the ballot, your interpreter can translate the ballot for you in the voting booth.
- If you are deaf and cannot bring someone to interpret for you, see if your county provides an interpreter at any of the polling places during Early Voting or request an interpreter before the election. Disability Rights Texas can assist you in requesting interpreters.
For additional information, contact:
Secretary of State Elections Division
P.O. Box 12060
Austin, Texas 78711-2060
512-463-5650 or 800-252-VOTE (8683)
If you need assistance in registering to vote, if you have questions regarding voting, or if you feel that any of your voting rights have been violated, please contact Disability Rights Texas at 1-888-796-VOTE (8683) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Created: September 16, 2020
Publication Code: HA32
Disclaimer: Disability Rights Texas strives to update its materials on an annual basis, and this handout is based upon the law at the time it was written. The law changes frequently and is subject to various interpretations by different courts. Future changes in the law may make some information in this handout inaccurate.
The handout is not intended to and does not replace an attorney’s advice or assistance based on your particular situation.