Fort Worth, Texas – A Record number of absentee ballots are being sent out in Tarrant County as the debate over drop-off and mail-in ballots continues to be a point of contention as the general election approaches, ABC reports.
The increase of absentee ballots is up from the previous record of 43,000 in 2016, and is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Elections Administrator Heider Garcia.
Of the 43,857 absentee ballots sent out to voters in 2016, 37,268 were successfully returned.
To date, 65,570 ballots have been sent out in the county but only 965 were returned as of Oct.1.
The eligibility for voters who wish to cast their votes by mail must meet certain criteria.
- Voters must be 65 years of age or older;
- Be sick or disabled;
- Be out of the county on election day and during the period for early voting by personal appearance; or
- Be incarcerated, but otherwise eligible.
Mail-in ballots must also be postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive by Nov. 4 in order to be counted. Ballots can also be dropped off in person with a valid form of ID.
Garcia attributed the increase of people opting to use the mail-in system to cast their votes due to health concerns from elderly voters regarding the pandemic.
“The pandemic is definitely a factor in all of this,” Garcia said. “You have a lot of people who prefer to vote in person, but maybe under the circumstances have decided to do it by mail.”
The security of mail-in voting has come under heavy scrutiny as the president cautions against the possibility of fraud occurring within the mail-in voting system.
All ballots that are mailed in or dropped are processed and verified for counting, which may occur at the end of early voting by the county’s ballot board.
That ballots are stored in a secured room with only five people in the county who have access. Garcia said that a keycard and fingerprint are needed to gain access.
“Election integrity is the heart and soul for us. It means everything,” Garcia said.
And the tension over whether or not mail-in ballots are secure from fraud continues to mount after President Trump said that he wouldn’t commit to accepting the results of the election.
An additional 200 voting machines have been added to polling sites to ensure that the casting of ballots runs smoothly on election day.