Along with more early voting days, citizens have more locations – including the Burnet post office – to get their ballots to counters for the Nov. 3 general election.
As word gets out, Burnet County elections personnel say they anticipate a spike in vote-by-mail ballots.
“We suddenly have gotten an increase in ballot-by-mail applications and voter registration applications,” Burnet County Elections Administrator Doug Ferguson said on Aug. 12. “Almost overnight, we see piles, maybe 20, 30, 40 in a day.” As a result, he has ordered approximately 11,000 envelopes for the “expected” mail out versus about 3,700 in the past.
He attributed the flurry, in part, to the re-opening of state driver’s license offices which have a voluntary, automatic voting registration option when doing business there.
Despite the influx, Ferguson assessed the response has, so far, matched past general elections.
“We’re probably about on par for what we normally are in a presidential (election),” he said. “It’s similar. It’s bigger (but) it’s not like we exploded yet. The race has started.”
Early voting for the general election starts on Tuesday, Oct. 13 and continues through Friday, Oct. 30, which is a four-day extension due to COVID-19 concerns and social distancing requirements as well as more options for ballot-by-mail.
The state is allowing voters eligible to vote-by-mail to have the option to hand deliver their completed ballots to the elections office, 220 S. Pierce, during early voting days and election day. Typically, election day is the sole day to hand deliver a mailed ballot.
Those eligible to vote by mail are: 65 and older, the disabled, those incarcerated on misdemeanors and voters who can prove they will be out-of-county such as college students, trucking industry workers and winter Texans.
Those who hand deliver their completed ballot to the elections office must also present photo identification and sign a roster.
For the first time, the Burnet County elections office has partnered with the U.S. Post Office in Burnet to offer walk-in mail ballot deliveries which will be postmarked and placed in the Burnet Elections Office box for direct delivery the following day.
Ferguson explained how security measures will also be in place for the option.
“No one can walk in with a box of ballots because that would be illegal. There are laws about someone possessing someone else’s ballot,” he said. “If you have more than one in your hand, it better be your spouse or a household family member.
“There will be people who will show up and not know what the rules are. That’s why we arranged it with the local post office,” he said. “If you’re walking around with a box of ballots in your hand, you’d be in some serious trouble.”
Local elections officials are starting to field several more questions as trends take shape.
“The number one question (from citizens) is, ‘Am I on the list to get a ballot,’” Ferguson said. “It’s people in their late 70s and 80s. We send them an application. They may get an application from six other entities.”
He explained that voteby-mail applications and voter rolls are public information which can be requested by anyone – such as private or political groups who download and send vote-bymail applications in mass mail outs to residents across the state.
“It’s actually legal, but I tell every single person I talk to that our office doesn’t send you anything you don’t request, except your voter registration card every two years.”
“They believe they automatically get a ballot-bymail, but you have to apply for it each year,” he said.
The local office is sending its first batch of voteby-mail ballots toward end of September. Oct. 5 is the voter registration deadline. The deadline for applications for vote by mail is Oct. 23. Those ballots must be postmarked 11 days prior to election day.
Polling locations for early voting in Burnet County are:
• Burnet County AgriLife Building in Burnet, 607 N. Vandeveer Street #100;
• Marble Falls annex of Burnet County Courthouse, 810 Steve Hawkins Pkwy.;
• Bertram Library, 170 North Gabriel St; and
• Granite Shoals Community Center, 1208 N. Phillips Ranch Road.
Election officials are seeking applications for at least 100 elections poll workers needed at 20 precinct location sites.
Election judges make $11 per hour and the clerks make $10 per hour; with shifts agreed upon by election officials.
To volunteer, go to burnetcountytexas.org or call 512-715-5288.