FORT WORTH, Texas — Tarrant County is dealing with a record amount of absentee ballot requests as mail-in and drop-off voting continues to be a hot topic with Nov. 3 inching closer each day.
Elections Administrator Heider Garcia credits the pandemic for the higher numbers.
In 2016, the county delivered 43,857 absentee ballots. Per county records, 37,268 were successfully returned or dropped off.
Garcia told WFAA that his elections office has sent out 65,570 absentee ballots so far.
Only 965 have been returned as of Oct. 1.
The county started sending out the ballots last week and many voters were seen Thursday dropping them off at a drive-thru the county had set up outside its election office.
To be eligible for an absentee ballot in Texas, you must meet the following requirements per the Texas Secretary of State:
- Be 65 years 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 confined in jail, but otherwise eligible.
You can mail in your ballot as long as it's postmarked on or before Nov. 3. It has to arrive by Nov. 4, however.
You can also drop it off in person, but you need to show an ID.
Garcia said that many of the ballots are going to the elderly who don't want to risk their health at a polling site during early voting or on Election Day.
"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."
Maintaining the integrity of the 2020 general election has gained major notoriety.
President Donald Trump has largely cautioned and alarmed supporters regarding voter fraud and mail-in ballots.
And even though voter fraud is incredibly rare, according to the bi-partisan Brennan Center for Justice, the issue has become a hot topic.
Garcia is aware of the scrutiny. He has employed 40 workers to help answer the public's questions if they call his office.
On Thursday, he let WFAA inside the elections office to see where the first returned ballots are going.
After someone mails or drops off a ballot, it's processed and verified for counting which may happen at the end of early voting by the county's ballot board.
Until then, ballots wait in a secure room. They can only be accessed by five people in the county. Garcia said that a keycard and a fingerprint is needed to enter.
"Election integrity is the heart and soul for us. It means everything," Garcia said.
In his first presidential debate, President Trump didn't fully commit to accepting the results from election night.
WFAA asked Garcia if there would be a good idea of who won Tarrant County come election night.
"What I can tell you is this," Garcia said. "We don't go to bed until 100% of the polling sites have been in."
Garcia has also added 200 voting machines to polling sites to ensure that things go smoothly during election day and early voting.