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No, it is not illegal to prefill vote-by-mail applications

The Texas election code prohibits voter registration cards from being pre-filled and the viewers asked Verify if the application was illegal.

DALLAS — Primary season has arrived and voters should familiarize themselves with the things they can and cannot do under the new Texas elections law passed during the 2021 legislative session. 

Voting by mail could also become more popular during the pandemic and multiple WFAA viewers sent us photos of an application they received addressed from the Dan Patrick campaign. The application was partially filled-in with the recipients’ name, address, the reason they are voting by mail and the date of the election. 

The Texas election code prohibits voter registration cards from being pre-filled and the viewers asked Verify if the application was illegal.

THE CLAIM

It is illegal to pre-fill ABBMs in Texas. (Applications for ballot by mail.)

THE ANSWER

FALSE

OUR SOURCES

-Texas Secretary of State

-Dallas County Elections Office

WHAT WE FOUND

The viewers sent pictures of the ABBM and it came with instructions telling them some of the applications was already pre-filled with information obtained from the voter registrar. The application marks “65 years or older” as the reason for why the voter was applying to vote by mail. The instructions then ask the recipient to complete the application with their driver license number or Department of Public Safety ID number, sign and date the application, and mail to the Secretary of State office.

There is a key distinction between an ABBM and a voter registration application. Under Sec. 13.002 (c-1) of the Texas Election Code, it makes clear information on a voter registration application “must be supplied by the person desiring to register to vote.”

However, an ABBM does not fall under the same code. The Secretary of State Office told us they send guidance to campaigns in December 2021 advising them they could pre-fill certain fields on the ABBM including name, address, eligibility for voting by mail and the election for which they are applying to vote. The guidance added campaigns should not pre-fill any witness or assistant information, personally identifiable info, or any affirmations that must be made by the voter.

The Secretary of State said the guidance was to ensure that outdated or inaccurate info was not included on a pre-filled ABBM but nothing in the election code specifically says the info must be provided by the registering voter.

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