Harris County Clerk responds to mail-in-ballot warning from USPS

With less than three months until the November 2020 election, the Harris County Clerk is sounding off after a warning from the U.S. Postal Service.

The Washington Post obtained a letter sent by the general counsel and executive vice president of the Postal Service, Thomas J. Marshall, which said the time frames outlined in state law for mail-in voting are “incongruous” with delivery standards.

“This is the latest form of voter suppression in this country and it’s intended to scare us,” said Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins.

The Washington Post reporting that a letter to Texas claimed some mail-in-ballots may not be processed in time to be counted for the November election.

The warning comes during an election year where record mail-in-votes are expected due to the pandemic.

A Houston USPS representative responded saying:

“The United States Postal Service is fully committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process when public policy makers choose to utilize us as a part of their election system, and to delivering Election Mail in a timely manner consistent with our operational standards. We do ask election officials and voters to be mindful of the time that it takes for us to transport, process and deliver ballots from the election mail officials to the voters, the time that it takes for voters to consider and prepare their ballots, and the time that it takes for a ballot to be transported, processed, and delivered back to the election official after it is placed by the voter back into the mail stream, based upon our usual delivery standards which have not changed.

“For that reason, we recommend that customers who opt to vote through the U.S. Mail must understand their local jurisdiction’s requirements for timely submission of absentee ballots, including postmarking requirements. Voters must use First-Class Mail or an expedited level of service to return their completed ballots. In order to allow sufficient time for voters to receive, complete and return ballots via the mail, and to facilitate timely receipt of completed ballots by election officials, we strongly recommend that jurisdictions immediately communicate and advise voters to request ballots at the earliest point allowable but no later than 15 days prior to the election date. The Postal Service recommends that domestic, non-military voters mail their completed ballots back to the election officials at least one week prior to their state’s due date. The Postal Service also recommends that voters contact local election officials for information about deadlines.

“Contrary to some assertions, we are not slowing down election mail or any other mail. Instead, we continue to employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all Election Mail consistent with our standards.”

Hollins reminds voters you do not have to rely on USPS to cast a mail-in-ballot.

“For whatever reason if you don’t want to put that ballot in the mail, you can drop it off to us in person anytime up until Election Day.”

Harris County has 11 annex offices that will accept your ballot.

Click here for a list of those locations.

To vote by mail in Texas you must first apply by printing out an application.

To qualify you must either be 65 years or older, out of the county on Election Day, confined to jail but eligible or sick/disabled, which includes pregnant voters.

“And during COVID-19 the Supreme Court of Texas has ruled that lack of immunity to COVID-19 can be considered as a factor in your health decisions about if voting in person will create this likely of injury to your health. It can’t be the only factor,” said Hollins.

The Harris County Clerk’s Office says ballots will start being mailed out at the end of September.

The U.S. Post Office recommends mailing your ballot by Oct. 27, one week before Election Day on Nov. 3.

“Our commitment at the Harris Co. Clerk’s Office is to ensure a safe, fair and transparent election for every voter in Harris County,” said Hollins.

-ABC13