Voting by mail ballot has been available for certain Texas voters for an extended period of time. Those 65 years of age or older, those with a disability, those expected to be absent from the county and those confined in jail have been eligible to take advantage of voting by mail. Recently there has been a fair amount of discussion about making this method of voting at the national level. I received an email from a concerned citizen regarding his mail ballot. He asked: “How do I know my vote has been counted?” I contacted the non-partisan County Elections Administrator, Suzie Harvey, for the answer. Below is a detailed description of the intricate and secure process of counting the mail ballots.
“When each mail ballot is received, that information is recorded and the sealed Carrier Envelope is filed in a locked and secure container. Audits are performed at each stage of mail ballot processing as follows: When the Early Voting Ballot Board (EVBB) convenes, the sealed Carrier Envelopes, each voter’s application for a ballot, the list of all voters who submitted a ballot, and a transmittal slip that shows the number of voters and ballots are transferred to the EVBB Judge.
EVBB compares the list to the carrier envelopes and verifies that all are accounted for. The EVBB reviews the application and verifies that the signature on each Carrier Envelope was made by the same voter who signed the application and, if accepted, separates the ballot (sealed in the secrecy Ballot Envelope) from the Carrier Envelope for voter privacy. After at least ten (10) Ballot Envelopes are separated from the Carrier Envelopes, they may be opened to retrieve the voted ballots. The number of ballots is confirmed to the number on the list and written on a transmittal slip, and the ballots are placed in a secure container with two different locks and a serial numbered tamper evident seal. The seal number(s) are recorded on a log which is signed by the EVBB Judge, at least one other EVBB member, any poll watchers, and the Elections Administrator.
When the double locked and sealed container is transferred to the Elections Administrator, the seal number is confirmed to the log, and the container may be unlocked. The number of the ballots in the container is confirmed to the quantity on the transmittal slip and the number on the list. The ballots are scanned, and the quantity scanned is confirmed to the quantity on the transmittal slip and the number on the list.
On Election Day, the scanned mail ballots are tabulated (counted), and the number of ballots tabulated is confirmed to the quantity on the transmittal slip and the number on the list.
After Election Day, the voter history for each absentee voter is submitted to the Secretary of State, and the number of records is confirmed to the quantity on the transmittal slip and the number on the list. The voter history file for each election is available to the public upon request and can conveniently be requested and obtained from the Elections website. After the election, a manual count is performed on the mail ballots for a race in at least three precincts, which are selected by the Secretary of State, to show that the results match the results of the automatic tabulating equipment.”