How do I vote by mail in Texas?

Keith Dunlap
Keith Dunlap

Registered voters can qualify to vote by mail if they are 65 years or older, cite a disability or an illness, or are confined in jail but still eligible to vote. Voters who will not be in the county where they're registered on Election Day and during the entire early voting period can also request a ballot by mail.

The Texas election code defines disability as a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents a voter from appearing in person without personal assistance or the “likelihood of injuring the voter’s health.” While lack of immunity to the new coronavirus alone doesn’t qualify a voter for a mail-in ballot based on disability, a voter can consider it along with their medical history to decide if they meet the requirement.

To apply for a mail-in ballot, you must deliver a completed application for ballot by mail to your county elections office. Applications can be dropped off in person before the start of early voting.

(Applications can also be submitted by fax or email, but the county must receive a hard copy within four business days.)

You can print out your own application, contact your local elections office to receive one or request one from the secretary of state’s office. Contact information for early voting clerks in every county can be found here.

When will I get my ballot? 

There is no specific date, but there are rules counties must follow. If your county elections office receives your application to vote by mail more than 45 days before Election Day, the county must send your ballot at least 30 days out from the election. Some counties are aiming to get the ballots out sooner, but they can't send them until the entire county ballot — from the race for president to local water districts — is certified.

If your application is received after the 45-day mark, the county must mail out your ballot within seven days of approving your application.

What is the deadline to submit my ballot?

For most people voting absentee, Texas counties must receive completed ballots by Election Day. If they’re postmarked by 7 p.m. that day, they’ll be counted if they come in the next day by 5 p.m.

The U.S. Postal Service recommends that Texans ask for mail-in ballots no later than 15 days out from that due date. But state law allows voters to request the ballots up until a week and a half before Election Day, so some may not receive their ballots until it’s too late to mail them back in time.

Texans voting absentee can also deliver their completed ballots in person at their county elections office instead of mailing them in. That’s typically only allowed while polls are open on Election Day, but the state has expanded that option during the pandemic to allow voters to return their ballots in person as soon as they’re completed. Those voters will need to present photo ID when dropping off their ballots.

What could cause my ballot to be rejected?

Be careful filling out your ballot. In addition to missing the deadline, a ballot could be rejected for multiple reasons. Some voters forget to sign their ballots. Ballot review boards may find a signature mismatch between the endorsement on a ballot and the one on the voter’s application. Other ballots could be rejected if a voter indicated they would be out of the county during the voting period, but the ballot was mailed from within the county.

If your ballot is rejected for some reason, you should eventually be notified. But generally a voter won’t know if their ballot was rejected until well after the election.

Who can I call to make sure my ballot is received?

You can call your county elections office. You can find a list of county elections offices and their contact information here.

Can I vote in person if I have already requested a mail-in ballot? 

The short answer is yes. The process will be more streamlined if you bring your mail-in ballot with you to your polling place so you can surrender it before casting your vote. If you don’t have your ballot or never received it, you can still cast a provisional ballot. Your vote will be counted once the county determines it never received your mail-in ballot.


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