Inside or outside? Hand-delivery process for mail-in ballots varies by county

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GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Williamson County voter Pamela Oldham said she can count on one hand the places she’s been during the pandemic. She’s been taking the quarantine seriously and has avoided going inside buildings except for necessary doctor’s appointments—until she voted.

“I did not anticipate having to walk inside a building, which for someone who has been isolating for seven to eight months? That was kind of a surprise to me,” Oldham said.

Mail-in ballot drop-off site showing delivery is indoors only

She opted for vote-by-mail this year for safety reasons. However, like many others, she worried about her ballot making it through the mail in time to be counted in light of the influx of mail-in ballots expected this year.

Voters have the option of hand delivering their mail-in ballot to one location in their county, but that delivery process can vary by county across Central Texas. Texas Election Law does not allow for ballot drop boxes, but voters can present their mail-in ballot with a valid voter ID to election workers to be accepted.

Travis and Bastrop Counties have curbside drop-off options—allowing voters to remain in their car while elections workers check their IDs and accept their ballot. Many other Central Texas counties, like Williamson, Burnet and Hays, direct voters indoors to have their ID checked and to hand off their ballot.

Map showing mail-in ballot drop off options by county (KXAN)

When Oldham went to deliver her ballot in Georgetown, she expected a set up like Travis County, but found signs pointing her inside the building. One sign read, “Only inside.”

Williamson County Elections Administrator Chris Davis said he understands the concern but urged any worried voters to consider mailing those ballots instead of hand delivering them.

“The USPS is doing their job and doing it very well,” he said.

He noted they have already received thousands of vote-by-mail and absentee ballots.

“At this early stage, this far out, where we are only—gosh, I don’t know—six days into early voting, we have about 12 or 11 days left and then Election Day? There is plenty of time for voters to put their ballot in the mail and have it mailed back to us,” he said.

Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3, to be counted. However, they still count ballots that arrive the next day, Nov. 4.

Davis said they are considering holding some type of curbside option for voters on Election Day.

“We anticipate there are going to be a lot of folks that are desperate—for whatever reason, they’ve waited until that final day to get their mail ballot in. By then, quite frankly, Nov. 3? It’s too late to drop it in the mail,” he said.

Still, if voters plan to hand deliver their ballot, he said they haven’t seen lengthy lines at the Williamson County location yet.

“For better or for worse, I was the only person there,” Amy Kwalwasser said after hand-delivering her ballot.

Like Oldham, she was surprised to have to go inside the building, but she said the process was quicker than the in-person voting experience.

“My experience for years, even with early voting, has been that lines were long,” she said.

Williamson County elections officials ask people to distance themselves, and masks are required. Plexiglass separates workers from voters.

If anyone has mobility restrictions making it difficult to get inside, or if they are worried about the spread of coronavirus, they ask people to call (512) 943-1630. An election worker will come assist those voters from the parking lot or their vehicle.

Oldham said she wished she knew that before she showed up and wants other voters to be aware, too.

“It may come as a surprise to a lot of people who are planning on handing their ballot to elections officials and finding out you’ve got a few more hurdles to be able to do that,” she said. “I think it’s important people know what’s ahead of them to do that.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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