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Changes make vote-by-mail process a little easier in Harris County

During the March Primary, nearly 7,000 mail-in ballots were rejected. The numbers were better in May, but in November, more people are likely to vote.

HOUSTON — Election Day is a couple of months away, but if you’re voting by mail, you may want to act sooner rather than later.

You must meet certain criteria to qualify for a vote-by-mail ballot:

  •      You are 65 years or older on Election Day
  •      You are sick or disabled
  •      You will be out of Harris County during the Early Voting period and on Election Day
  •      You are expected to give birth within three weeks before or after Election Day
  •      You are confined in jail, but otherwise eligible

Just two months out from Election Day, final preps are underway at the Harris County Elections Office, including some new adjustments.

“We’re moving fast and furious in preparation for the November election," Director of Communications and Voter Outreach at Harris County Elections Leah Shah said.

RELATED: November election voter guide: Vote-by-mail information; registration deadline; other key dates

So, I went to the website, and that’s when I discovered that it’s really not readable," volunteer deputy registrar Poppy Northcutt said.

Northcutt, better known for her previous role at NASA, said when she went on the new Harris Votes website, she was concerned by the hard-to-read vote-by-mail guidelines.

RELATED: More than 12% of mail-in ballots were rejected in Texas under new GOP voting rules, final tally shows

"Especially for people who are over 65, and that’s their main target audience," Northcutt said.

But by midday Tuesday, the elections office had already added an update, making the website more user-friendly.

“I'm very happy that they’ve improved it," Northcutt said.

Northcutt said it’s a relief because the process to vote by mail is already difficult enough.

"If they’re going to vote by mail, they’re going to have to be super careful," Northcutt said.

She said that while the Harris County application is easier to read, the font on the state’s application is very small.

RELATED: 'Time for a serious upgrade' | Harris County to put $1.2 billion bond referendum on November ballot

And that, along with added identification requirements, may make applying to vote-by-mail that much harder.

“You’re now required to fill out a Texas ID number or the last four digits of your Social Security Number. That was not previously a requirement," Shah said.

“If they can vote in person, that’s preferable. Because that way, they know their vote will be counted," Northcutt said.

During the March Primary, nearly 7,000 mail-in ballots were rejected. The numbers were better in May, but in November, more people are likely to vote.

“Most people didn’t vote in the Primary so they haven’t used that system yet," Northcutt said. 

This is why if you’re voting by mail, get started on it now.

“If you’re unsure, you can always call our office and someone from our voter’s services team is happy to walk voters through that process, both in filling out the application and to see what the status is of their request," Shah said.

The deadline to get that application in is Oct. 28.

If you have any questions about the mail-in-ballot process, click here.

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