Voting Issues for Texas Evacuees Due to Natural Disasters

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The Secretary of State and her staff would like to extend their sympathy to all Texans affected by natural disasters. If you have evacuated your Texas residence due to a natural disaster, we would also like to provide information with regards to voting in upcoming elections. We understand that many voters are going through a difficult time. This FAQ outlines what we think will be the most common questions for you to review and see what fits your situation. We recommend reviewing all of the information and questions below.

TEXAS VOTER ID ISSUES FOR TEXAS EVACUEES DUE TO NATURAL DISASTERS

Q. What do I do if my ID for voting was destroyed or I can’t access it due to a natural disaster?

A.Please note that voters in counties covered by the Governor’s disaster declaration have the ability to vote a provisional ballot without an identification, appear at their voter registrar’s office within six (6) calendar days after election day, and sign an affidavit (PDF) stating that the voter does not have any of the identification required by Section 63.001(b) of the Texas Election Code either due to the destruction or inability to access the identification as a result of the natural disaster declared by the Governor (PDF) in order for their ballot to be counted.

Finally, please note that voters who do not possess an acceptable form of photo identification and cannot reasonably obtain one of the seven forms of acceptable photo identification, may present a supporting form of identification and execute a Reasonable Impediment Declaration, noting the voter’s reasonable impediment to obtaining an acceptable form of photo identification, stating that the information contained in the declaration is true, that the voter is the same individual personally appearing at the polling place to sign the declaration, and that the voter faces a reasonable impediment to procuring an acceptable form of photo identification.

TEXAS RESIDENCE ISSUES FOR TEXAS EVACUEES DUE TO NATURAL DISASTERS

If a voter is able to return to their home county, they may vote as usual in their county polling place. We understand that this is not possible for everyone affected by natural disasters, but suggest that voters check with their county, via phone or online, for the latest local information regarding polling places and early voting.

We realize that evacuation is a difficult experience and that voters may not be certain of their future living arrangements, neither short nor long term. Regarding residence, our answer to evacuees is the same as to any voter -- the voter is the one who decides what the voter considers to be home. The voter will need to make decisions by certain deadlines, as all regular deadlines are still in place and have not been waived. Voters who have been displaced have several options for voting in the November election.

Question 1: I am a registered Texas voter, and I am currently an evacuee living with my family elsewhere in Texas (outside of my home county). My future is so uncertain; I am not sure what to say on the forms.

Answer:  Our advice to such individuals is that they evaluate all the facts known to them, given the overall uncertainty, then decide what they consider to be their permanent address at that time:

  1. The address of the voter’s regular home in the affected county (if the individual intends to return to that address);
  2. The address of the family member with whom they are currently staying; or
  3. An address they are going to be relocating to (as long as that address is for a location they have actually been to before).

What this means for you:

If you want to register at the family home where you currently live as an evacuee or at an address you plan to be living at soon, you can register to vote at that address by the voter registration deadline date for the election you wish to vote in. If you mail your voter registration application, it must be postmarked by the voter registration deadline date. Please note, if your voter registration application is approved, the registration becomes effective on the 30th day after the date the application was submitted to the registrar or on the date the applicant becomes 18 years of age, whichever is later.

  • If you want to remain registered at the place you normally live that is in a county affected by the storm, even if you are temporarily away from that home due to storm damage, and want to apply for a ballot by mail, please see Question 2.

Question 2: It is important to me to maintain my residence in the affected area, even though my home is currently uninhabitable and do not know when I can go back to that residence. How can I vote?

Answer: The law allows you to still claim your old address as your home if you have an intention to return to that address and can conceivably do so at some point in the future. What is important is that you can truthfully state that this place was your home in the past, and your intention is to return.

The best option if you consider yourself to be only temporarily away from the county of your residence in the area affected by a natural disaster and want to remain registered at that address is to vote by mail.

Voters wishing to vote by mail must submit an Application for a Ballot by Mail to their county election office (the county in which they are registered to vote and in which they wish to stay registered to vote). The application must be received no later than the close of regular business in the early voting clerk’s office or 12 noon, whichever is later, on the 11th day before election day unless that day is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal state or national holiday, in which case the last day is the first preceding regular business day.

The application may be mailed, faxed, or emailed to the early voting clerk. If an ABBM is faxed or emailed, then the original, hard copy of the application MUST be mailed and received by the early voting clerk no later than the 4th business day. We recommend that voters contact their county early voting clerk to confirm the current preferred method for submitting an Application for a Ballot by Mail.

If you are applying to vote by mail because you are temporarily outside of your home Texas county, then on the Application for a Ballot by Mail, you should check the box on the form indicating that you have an expected absence from the county, and you will need to provide a mailing address for the ballot that is outside of your home county.

Note that voters who are 65 or older on election day or who have a disability also are eligible to apply for a ballot by mail, and, if not able to receive the ballot at their normal residence address, may have their ballot mailed to the address of a nursing home, hospital, or other care facility at which they are staying or the address of a relative at which they can receive the ballot. Here is a link to the Application for Ballot by Mail (PDF).

Question 3: What are some deadlines or other procedures I need to keep in mind?

Some of the important election related deadlines to keep in mind are as follows:

  • The last day to register to vote in a new county. Your application must be received in the voter registrar’s office or postmarked at least 30 days before an election for you to be eligible to vote in that election. If the 30th day before the date of an election is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal state or national holiday, an application is considered to be timely if it is submitted to the registrar on or before the next regular business day.
  • The first and last day of early voting by personal appearance. If you are still in your home Texas county, you can vote at any location in the county during the early voting period.
  • The last day for the early voting clerk to receive an Application for a Ballot by Mail.
  • Election Day. The polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

If you have moved to a new county and have not re-registered in the new county by the voter registration deadline, you may be eligible to vote a limited ballot in your new county. A limited ballot means that you would be allowed to vote on any candidates and measures in common between your former and new county. This procedure is only available during the early voting period at the main early voting polling place; you may NOT vote a limited ballot on election day. You must be a current registered voter in your former county in order to qualify OR you must have been registered in your old county at the time you submitted a voter registration application in your new county, if you have already done so. For full information on this procedure (including the by-mail option, if qualified to vote by mail), go to Special Procedures for Early Voting. If you feel you qualify to vote a limited ballot, we recommend that you contact the office of the Early Voting Clerk in your new county.

If you moved within the same county where you are currently registered, you must file the new address information in writing with your voter registrar OR you may submit the "in county" change online by the voter registration deadline . If you missed this deadline and moved within the county, you may return to the precinct in which you are currently registered to vote (your “old” precinct), and, at that location, you will be required to complete a "statement of residence" confirming your new address. This will act to update your registration information for the future. You will then be allowed to vote a regular ballot as long as you are otherwise eligible.

Question 4: I am an evacuee living with family in another state. How does that affect your advice?

If you want to remain registered in Texas and vote a Texas ballot, our answers are still the same as noted above.

If you want to register and vote in the other state where you are currently residing, you will need to contact the election official in that state to learn about requirements for registering to vote and voting in that state.

For a list of contact information for other states, please see the site for the Federal Election Commission.

Question 5: I am an evacuee living with family or friends outside the United States. How does that affect your advice?

Answer: If for military or other reasons, you have left the United States, you may use the Federal Postcard Application (FPCA). A link to the Federal Postcard Application is available on the FPCA website (PDF).

Additional information regarding the Federal Postcard Application and the Federal Voting Assistance Program is available from the FVAP website.

Question 6: How can I vote if I am staying in a shelter?

Answer: Given the temporary nature of living at a shelter, you may not want to register to vote using the shelter address. However, if you consider the shelter to be your home for now, then you can register at that address. If the shelter cannot receive mail, then you may wish to use a P.O. Box or other mailing address to which your new voter registration certificate can be mailed. If the shelter can receive mail, a person could put that address as their mailing address on the voter registration application.

We note that it may be a good idea for evacuees currently living in shelters to allow some time for the situation to become more stable. (For example, many are in the process of being transferred to hotel rooms or considering other options.)

Any evacuee can call our office at 1-800-252-VOTE (8683), and we will make every effort to provide advice to fit their specific situation. If you are in communication with someone who has access to a telephone but not the internet because of power outages, we recommend either calling our toll-free number, or listening to local radio for announcements from county officials about when their county offices will be open for routine business. For assistance, you may also email our office.

Question 7: How do I find out if I am registered to vote or where I am registered? What do I do if I am not registered to vote?

Answer: If you want to make sure you are registered (and where), you can look yourself up on our website. If you are not registered to vote, make the best choice you can based on the facts known to you about what your residence address and mailing address are, then apply and register to vote as usual on or before the voter registration deadline. Apply to vote by-mail if needed.

Question 8: I am not sure whether where I am staying right now is in the same county where I am registered to vote. How can I find that out?

Answer: On our regular Voter FAQ, we have links to help identify which county you are in

As further explained in the general voter FAQ, under Texas law, if you move around within the same county, you can return to the location serving your precinct and vote. If you are still in the same Texas county you are registered in, a good choice is to vote early by personal appearance. Early voting by personal appearance locations are set up to serve all voting precincts within that Texas county. If you want to vote on election day, please be aware that many counties will be re-evaluating where to locate polling places; therefore, your traditional polling place (i.e., “where we have voted for years”) might be moved to another location. You should look on a county’s website for lists of current polling locations (for early voting and election day).

You can also go on our website to find your polling place.

Question 9: What are the deadlines to return my by-mail ballot?

If the carrier envelope containing the voted ballot does not bear a cancellation mark or a receipt mark, the ballot must arrive before the time the polls are required to close on Election Day.

If the carrier envelope bears a cancellation mark of a postal service or a receipt mark or of a courier indicating a time not later than 7:00 p.m. at the location of the election on Election Day, then the ballot must be received by 5:00 p.m. on the day after election day (or the next business day if the next day falls on a weekend or legal state or federal holiday).

Question 10: Will my ballot be counted?

Answer: The good news for voters affected by natural disaster evacuations is that if their ballot is submitted correctly and in a timely manner, then it will be counted. However, we must likewise caution evacuees that:

  • all regular statutory deadlines are still in place, and have not been waived; and
  • most election procedures require your hardcopy signature (or that of a witness, if you are unable to sign).

Even during this difficult time, it is still the voter’s responsibility to make certain decisions as to what he or she considers home in time to vote, and to file the necessary paperwork. As to your ballot being counted, Texas counties count ballots mailed to them from applicants from all over the world.

Question 11: Where can I find additional information?

Answer: Go to votetexas.gov, call us at 1-800-252-VOTE (8683), or email us. We try to have as much information as possible available on our website. Please remember that it might not be possible for us to modify our online advice for situations involving a particular natural disaster on every page of our website..

We also recommend checking the list of counties with their own websites at our directory.

The county’s own website (if any) will usually provide the best and most up to date information for voting in that county.

The events that brought you to these questions are likely extraordinary. However, in terms of election law, you are just like many other Texas voters who are on the move. We are confident that we can find the procedures you need to help you vote, and we appreciate your thinking about voting during this trying time.

Sincerely,

Elections Division Staff
Texas Secretary of State
1-800-252-8683
Elections@sos.texas.gov