El Paso County Elections Department wants to make it easier for absentee voters

El Paso News

Election Day may be over, but some issues with absentee votes still linger for the El Paso County Elections Department.

Christopher Medlin, an El Paso resident registered to vote in El Paso County, lives in Maryland and had some issues with voting for the second consecutive election period.

Medlin says he had trouble receiving his absentee ballot in time to send it back to Texas, even though he submitted his request days ahead of the application deadline.

In Texas, ballot requests by mail must be submitted either in person or by mail up to 11 days before election day. This year the deadline was October 26. The law changed in 2017 where if you requested it by fax or email, you then have to send a hard-copy four days later.

Lisa Wise, El Paso County Elections Department Administrator said some people think they are complete just after they submit the request and this raises issues.

Once the requests are in on time and processed, the ballots are sent. The El Paso County Elections department must then receive postmarked ballots by Election Day, which was Tuesday, November 6 this year. Ballots can be received the day after, however they need to be postmarked by 7 p.m. on Election Day, forcing many out-of-state voters to overnight their ballots.

Medlin says he did not receive his ballot until the day of the election and felt by then it was too late. He also says the same situation happened to him during the 2016 election period.

“The system that is set up now is not conducive to the current voting environment we have today and I would like to see how we can better serve citizens of the country who really want to be involved in politics,” Medlin said.

He called the Texas Democrats voter protection hotline to for advice, and says others from the hotline told him he was not the only absentee voter from the El Paso County facing these issues.

 Wise said she believes the deadlines are too tight and the state’s current process is “not voter friendly.”

“I always tell people to get those requests in as soon as possible because that deadline is actually really tight,” Wise said.

Wise also said she hopes the El Paso County Elections Department, along with other counties in Texas, can take this issue to Texas legislature in January to solve it by the 2020 election period.

Other possible solutions according to Wise,an upgraded system where out-of-state voters can possibly track their ballots.

“We’re looking into possibly, the county, purchasing some kind of ballot tracking system and I don’t know the cost of it right now and it’s in the very early stages but that would give the voter a chance to go online and track where their ballot is in the process, that would be a big help,” Wise said. 

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