Dallas County officials say they’re getting an unusually high number of calls from confused absentee voters, causing worry that some votes may not be counted this month. The confusion is related to the odd circumstance of two elections this month. Voters in many cities and school districts, including the Dallas Independent School District, go to the polls Saturday. Runoffs for the statewide primary are on May 27. It’s possible, election officials say, that absentee voters are mixing up their local and runoff ballots, or sending them in using the wrong envelopes. When that happens, those votes are lost — and the people who cast them will probably never know it. By law, election workers can’t open absentee ballots until after early voting ends. For Saturday’s municipal and school board elections, the last day of early voting was Tuesday. The ballots will be opened Wednesday. “We will know then if there is an issue,” said Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole.
Before that, it’s impossible to know how many votes are affected. In response to requests, Dallas County mailed out 11,521 absentee ballots for Saturday’s elections. About 6,000 have been returned — presumably, by people casting absentee votes. For the primary runoff, 3,531 Democratic ballots and 12,518 Republican ballots were distributed. So far, 1,750 Democratic and 5,760 Republican ballots have been returned.
Absentee ballots can be used by people in the military and others who know they’ll be out of the county during the election. They’re also available to elderly or disabled voters who would have trouble getting to the polls.
This year, residents were allowed to ask for a whole year’s worth of absentee ballots at once. Previously, they had to send in separate paperwork for each election. The change means some voters may receive ballots for races in which they don’t plan to vote, Pippins-Poole said.