|To:||County Elections Officers (County Clerks/Elections Administrators/Tax Assessors-Collectors)|
|From:||Keith Ingram, Director of Elections|
|Date:||October 3, 2012|
|RE:||Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot and Voters in Hostile Fire/Combat Pay Zones|
First, we want to thank you all for timely submission of ballots to the FPCA voters. We understand what a challenge it was to mail/email ballots by the September 22nd deadline, and we appreciate your dedication. This memo will concentrate on two special procedures for certain FPCA voters.
Use of the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot for General Election
The Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (“FWAB”) is the federal form voters may use to vote before an election if they have not received their official ballot. A voter who has submitted his/her FPCA, but has not received the official ballot, may use the FWAB as a write-in ballot to ensure that his/her vote is received.
We note that Senate Bill 100 (Chapter 1318, 82nd Legislature, 2011) amended Section 105.003 of the Texas Election Code (the “Code”) to provide that a FWAB may be used in an election for any office for which balloting materials may be sent through email transmission under Section 101.104 of the Code. Section 101.104 allows email transmission in any election in which there is a federal office on the ballot, a special election to fill a vacancy in the legislature, or any election held jointly with either of those elections. (The voter does not have to be asking for their ballot to be emailed to be entitled to use a FWAB, this just defines the category of elections to which the FWAB applies.)
This means that the FWAB is no longer limited to federal offices on the general election ballot, but may include the state and county offices as well. The FWAB may also include the offices in an election held jointly with the general election for state and county offices. As a practical matter, these changes to the FWAB mean that the State Write-In Ballot (SWAB) under Section 105.002 of the Code has little importance in the general election for state and county officers. Please note that some voters still will not be eligible to receive a full ballot, but rather will be qualified to receive a federal-only ballot. This includes voters voting under Chapter 114 of the Code, who have indicated that they are indefinitely away or have no intention to return to the United States.
In order for a voter to be entitled to use the FWAB, he or she must be a voter who is eligible to use the FPCA (an overseas citizen or a military voter, spouse, or dependent). The voter must also have filed the FPCA with the early voting clerk by the seventh day before election day (the regular deadline). If you have an FPCA on file for a voter and receive a FWAB from the voter before you have mailed or emailed the official ballot, you must continue with normal procedure and mail or email the voter an official ballot. If the official ballot is returned by the deadline, you will forward the official ballot to the early voting ballot board. If the deadline for receiving overseas ballots passes and you have only the voter’s FWAB, then forward the FWAB to the early voting ballot board for processing.
Please note that the voter must have submitted the FPCA at the same time as or before submitting the FWAB. If the FWAB is submitted before an FPCA or without an FPCA, it cannot be counted. If a FWAB is filed with you, but you do not have a corresponding FPCA on file for that voter, we suggest that you immediately notify the voter by phone, email, or letter, that his or her FWAB will not be counted and that the voter must submit an FPCA by mail, fax, or as an attachment to an email before another FWAB is filed. You may also wish to explain that the FWAB is a “back up” ballot and that by filing the FPCA, the voter will receive a full ballot from your office and that the FWAB will only be counted if the voter does not return the regular ballot. Also, please note that no marked ballots can be emailed by the voter. Therefore, a FWAB that is sent via email along with an image of an FPCA (which can be emailed), must be rejected.
Voters in Combat Zones/Hostile Fire Pay Areas
Pursuant to Section 105.001 of the Code, military voters stationed in recognized hostile fire, imminent danger pay areas, or areas designated as combat zones by the President of the United States are authorized to return an early voting ballot by telephonic facsimile transmission (fax). Only military voters on active duty and their spouses or dependents stationed in these areas qualify to submit their voted ballots in this manner. (The ballot may not be returned by email regardless of category.)
Following this memo is a current list of all territories designated as hostile fire, imminent danger pay areas or combat zones. The State of Texas continues to work with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (“FVAP”) to implement this program in Texas. The program will operate as follows:
- A voter in a designated zone receives, by mail or email, a ballot with the voting materials and envelopes from the early voting clerk, per normal procedure. The voter decides if he would like to return his ballot by fax. The voter may also choose to return the ballot by mail.
- If the voter decides to return the ballot by fax, he must fax the ballot to the FVAP, along with the FVAP cover sheet located at: http://www.fvap.gov/resources/media/coversheet.pdf. Please note that you may not accept a faxed ballot directly from the voter. If you receive a ballot faxed directly from a voter, you may not accept it. However, if this happens, please advise the voter that he should submit his voted ballot, via fax, to FVAP. This safeguards both the fax voting procedures and the voter’s right to have his vote counted.
- FVAP faxes the following items to the Texas early voting clerk: (1) the faxed voted ballot; (2) the faxed cover sheet signed by the voter, and (3) the faxed cover sheet initiated by FVAP.
- When the early voting clerk receives these materials, the faxed voted ballot is folded, placed in a ballot envelope and sealed. The ballot envelope, along with both faxed cover sheets and application to vote by mail or FPCA, is placed in the jacket envelope.
- The early voting clerk must keep a record of the names of the voters whose ballots were received by fax. Before the early voting clerk forwards the faxed ballot to the early voting board, she must be certain that: (1) no more than one faxed ballot has been received for the voter; and (2) the voter did not return the original ballot by mail.
- If you have received more than one ballot, returned by fax and forwarded to you by FVAP, from the voter, then the first one received should be forwarded to the ballot board.
- If you have received both the original ballot from the voter, and also a ballot returned by fax and forwarded by FVAP, the first one received should be forwarded to the ballot board.
- Any subsequent ballots received from the same voter are considered not timely returned, and are not forwarded to the ballot board, but are retained by the early voting clerk.
- The jacket envelopes containing faxed ballots are delivered to the early voting ballot board along with the other early voting by mail ballots and are processed in the same manner as other ballots. However, since there will be no carrier envelopes for these ballots, the voter’s signature on the fax cover sheet is compared with the voter’s signature on the application for ballot by mail or FPCA.
Faxed Ballot Return Deadline/Other Procedures
- Faxed ballots must be received by the close of polls on election day in order to be counted. If a faxed ballot appears to have reached the FVAP office before 7:00 p.m. on election day, but did not reach your office by 7:00 p.m., the ballot is considered late. Faxed ballots received in accordance with chapter 105 of the Code are not eligible to be counted late under Section 86.007 of the Code. Late counting applies only to ballots returned by mail from outside the United States.
- In order to be faxed, ballots must fit on an 8 ½” by 11” sheet of paper. Therefore, if the ballot is larger than 8 ½” by 11”, you may receive several faxed sheets associated with one ballot.
- The early voting ballot board will count the ballots in the regular manner. For counties using electronic voting equipment, the ballots are delivered to the central counting station with the other electronic ballots. The central counting station manager will determine whether to hand-count or duplicate the faxed ballots.
The Secretary of State will provide FVAP with the number to your office fax. You will not be responsible for keeping your fax number up-to-date with FVAP. It is most important that you let our office know if you change your fax number so we can forward the change to FVAP. You may wish to review your county’s contact information in the Texas portion of the online voter’s guide at https://www.fvap.gov/r3/jurisdictions/TX.
The fax numbers that qualified military voters use to fax their ballot to FVAP are: (703) 693-5527; DSN 223-5527; or toll-free, 800-368-8683 (from US, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands). If you (or your voters) have problems with any of these numbers, you may check for updated numbers at http://www.fvap.gov/FPCA/fpca-tx.html.
If you have any questions about any of the procedures addressed above, please contact the Elections Division toll-free at 1-800-252-2216.
Designated Hostile Fire or Imminent Danger Pay Areas
As of August 2011 (Source - U.S. Dept. of Defense)
|Arabian Peninsula, the airspace above the Persian Gulf and land area of Saudi Arabia and the surface area of the following sea boundaries: Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, and Arabian Sea north of 10º 00’ N latitude and west of 68º 00’ E longitude||Libya|
|Bahrain||Mediterranean Sea (Water area of the Mediterranean Sea extending from the North African Coast northward into Mediterranean Sea, bounded on the east at 26° 00’ E longitude, extending north to 34° 35’ N latitude, extending west to the East Coast of Tunisia.)|
|Congo, Democratic Republic of (formerly Zaire)||Philippines|
|Cuba (Limited to Service Members performing duties within the Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay Detention Facilities)||Rwanda|
|Eritrea||Somalia Basin (2) Water area of the Somalia Basin with coordinates: 1110N3-05115E2, 0600N6-04830E5, 0500N5-05030E8, 1130N5-05334E5; and 0500N5-05030E8, 0100N1-04700E1, 0300S3-04300E7, 0100S1-04100E5, 0600N6-04830E5.|
|Greece (land area within a 20-km radius from the center of Athens)||Syria|
|Iran||Turkey, excluding the Turkish Straits, and including the limited airspace south of 37-45N and east of 43-00E.|
|Israel||United Arab Emirates|
|Kosovo||Yugoslavia, Federal Republic of (see also, Montenegro and Serbia)|
|Kuwait||Zaire (Note, name changed to Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997)|