New rules on mail-in ballots
by Gary Kent
Sep 03, 2010 | 988 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Early voting in the Nov. 2 general election this year begins soon and people who assist voters to apply for and prepare mail ballots need to be careful.

“It is a Class A misdemeanor for someone to witness or assist a voter in applying for a mail ballot without signing the application,” said Bee County Clerk Mirella Escamilla Davis.

This year the Texas Secretary of State has added a section at the bottom of the “Application for Ballot by Mail” for anyone assisting a voter to sign.

Failure to do so could result in confinement in the Bee County Jail for a year and a $4,000 fine, said former County Attorney José Luis Aliseda.

This year Aliseda is the Republican candidate for District 35 of the Texas House of Representatives.

Aliseda said he prosecuted numerous voter fraud cases when he was county attorney and he wants campaign workers to know that it will be much harder to get away with illegally applying for mail ballots without the knowledge of the voters.

Davis said the secretary of state had blocks 11a, 11b and 11c added to the bottom of mail ballot applications after hearing numerous complaints from candidates and political parties.

In the past, some elderly and handicapped voters received mail ballots for which they had not applied. Often, campaign workers would meet the postal worker at the mailbox on the day the ballots were to arrive and actually take the ballots out of the box and deliver them to the home of the prospective voter.

The campaign workers would “help” the voters fill out their ballots and at times even fill out the ballots themselves and simply have the voter sign the envelope containing the ballot.

Davis said no one can witness or assist more than one voter when the actual ballot is filled out and placed in the envelope. The same rule applies to helping a voter fill out the application for a ballot.

“Candidates, campaign workers and others need to be careful what you sign out there,” Davis said.

She and Aliseda said ignorance is no excuse of the law, especially when it comes to applying for mail ballots and helping voters. The warning is printed right on the application.

Anyone who does not understand the instructions may call Davis’ office at 362-3245 or call the Texas Secretary of State’s Office for assistance.

“It just needs to be adhered to,” Davis said of the new signature regulation.

The only people who are not required to sign the application or the ballot are those who are close relatives of the voter or people who live in the same household with the voter.

For others, Aliseda warned against illegally assisting voters getting mail ballots.

Aliseda said he and other candidates whose names will be on the November ballots will be looking for infractions of the law.

Many candidates on this year’s ballot have been victims of that kind of voter fraud in the past and they know what to watch for to protect the integrity of the election.

“If they ignore it, I’m filing charges,” Aliseda said of people who may not adhere to the requirement. “I’m going to be watching it closely.”

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