Herman: Abbott targets older voters for mail ballots

Gov. Greg Abbott, in addition to finding his way into many Texans’ email and snail-mail inboxes, now is showing up on some folks’ phones.

And I’ve heard from some readers who are concerned about a recent phone call from their governor.

“Hi,” he says in the recorded call, “this is Gov. Greg Abbott. I recently mailed you an application for an absentee ballot for the upcoming election. By signing and submitting this application, you will be able to vote by mail in the March primary election, as well as the general election in November.

“Don’t miss your chance to vote. Make sure that you sign this application and mail it in immediately to receive your absentee ballot. If you haven’t received your application by mail by the end of the week, please call me at 512 496-9336 and we’ll send out another application. This call is paid for by Texans for Greg Abbott.”

Abbott campaign spokesman John Wittman says the phone calls and accompanying mail piece are aimed at “a targeted model of (age) 65+ presidential cycle voters.” He would not say whether the campaign specifically targeted Republican voters or went to a wider audience.

RELATED: House approves Senate’s mail-in ballot fraud bill

There’s nothing wrong with that, and, as far as I can tell, there’s nothing illegal or unethical about the effort.

But it’s important that those of you who get the call understand the deal. I heard from two readers who, perhaps understandably, misunderstood the call and thought Abbott said he was sending ballots by mail.

He can’t do that. Mailed ballots only can be distributed by election officials. Abbott, however, is as free as anyone to send applications for mail-in ballots.

It’s also important that you know that if you apply for and receive a mail ballot, you could face some questions if you decide instead to vote in person the traditional way. Poll workers will know who’s received ballots by mail.

So what do you do if you apply for and receive a mail ballot but then decide to vote in person? Sam Taylor, spokesman for Texas Secretary of State Rolando B. Pablos, says the easiest way to do that would be to bring the mail ballot to your polling place and have it canceled there.

“Otherwise, the voter would have to vote a provisional ballot, and it only counts if their mail ballot doesn’t arrive at the early voting clerk’s office,” Taylor said.

It’s that whole one-vote-per-person thing.

Voting by mail (and there’s an important change in the procedure this year) is limited to folks in one or more of these categories: 65 or older, disabled, out of the county during early voting and on election day or in jail but otherwise eligible.

The early voting period for the March 6 primaries is Feb. 20 to March 2. Feb. 23 is the deadline for applying for a mail ballot. More information voting by mail is on the Texas secretary of state’s website.

Most importantly, Feb. 5 is the deadline for voter registration if you’re not currently on the books.

This year, as a result of action by the Legislature in 2017, you cannot apply for a mail ballot simply via email or fax. Requests must be mailed in with an original signature. This was a change pushed by GOP lawmakers who believe mailed ballots have been a source of voter fraud. Democrats, however, saw the change as a solution to a nonexistent problem, and one that could make it more difficult for some Texans to vote.

READ: Here’s how to register to vote in Texas

Abbott is doing his part — most likely for folks he perceives as his voters — to get mail ballots to folks who might need them. His robocall is followed up with a mail piece that says, “Governor Greg Abbott has made it easy to vote by mail in the March 6th Republican Primary Election.”

It’s kind of a dual-purpose piece: part public service, “Please sign the personalized Vote-By-Mail Application we’ve pre-addressed for YOU,” and part campaign ad, albeit with a grammatically challenged message. See if you can spot the problem: “Keep Texas Strong — defeat the Bernie Sander’s machine.”

Our apologies to the apostrophe, perhaps the most misunderstood and misused punctuation mark of all. (Although colons — full and semi — also are up there.)

As far as I know, there is no Bernie Sander machine trying to make Texas weak.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

Letters to the editor: May 21, 2018

Breakthrough! Refreshing news: President Trump’s lead lawyer says he wanted to have “the Hillary Clinton treatment” for the president. What a breakthrough for transparency. Clinton was treated to 11-plus hours of testimony to Congress, her files and servers turned over to the FBI, and Republican leaders asked the Justice Department...
Opinion: Trump breaks bread, glasses and party at lunch

POTUS coming to Tuesday lunch. Translated, the president of the United States is joining 50 Republican senators in the Capitol to crash their private Tuesday lunch. Nobody is glad to hear this on the Senate side. We love the constitutional separation of powers. The Senate is the last citadel of democracy, they say. We in the press are free as birds...
Opinion: Just saying yes to drug companies

Last week we learned that Novartis, the Swiss drug company, had paid Michael Cohen — Donald Trump’s personal lawyer — $1.2 million for what ended up being a single meeting. Then, on Friday, Trump announced a “plan” to reduce drug prices. Why the scare quotes? Because the “plan” was mostly free of substance...
Facebook comments: May 20, 2018
Facebook comments: May 20, 2018

In recent commentary the American-Statesman’s Bridget Grumet wrote about the uncertainty that those who receive federal housing aid are facing after Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson unveiled a proposal to raise the rents on millions of households who receive the assistance. “Be grateful for your good fortune if you don&rsquo...
Herman: Gubernatorial win for Valdez or White would be history-making
Herman: Gubernatorial win for Valdez or White would be history-making

Sometime Tuesday night the relatively few ballots will be tallied and we’ll bid a political farewell, possibly for all time, to one of the two contenders for the gubernatorial nomination of the once-great Democratic Party of Texas. The winner will advance to an upmountain (which is even steeper than uphill) battle with GOP Gov. Greg Abbott in...
More Stories