Confusion from Absentee Army Voter About Second Ballot

There's always fears of voter problems as Election Day approaches. For one soldier from Bryan, he thought those fears were coming true.

Earlier this month, we told you Brazos County had to resend ballots to about a thousand absentee voters, that included Army Sergeant Howard Williamson is serving in Washington, DC.

He got his first absentee ballot shortly after it was sent out, but only Thursday did he get the second ballot in the mail. His thought: he wouldn't be able to have his vote count back home.

"There was no letterhead on it," SGT Williamson said. "I don't know who it came from. It could have come from anybody, really. No signature on it, just said, 'Dear Voter:'"

It was a plain letter with what Sgt Howard Williamson thought was a clear message: return this ballot for your vote to count. There wasn't proper Spanish language info on the first thousand-or-so absentee ballots sent out by Brazos County. They caught the error, and started mailing new ballots immediately.

When Williamson got his late, he called the number on that plain letter.

"I said, 'I'm in DC, I'm active duty military," Williamson recalled. "There's no way I can get it there.' And she said, 'well, it won't count.'"

On the contrary, Brazos County Clerk Karen McQueen says that first ballot the sergeant sent in will be counted.

"If a voter doesn't get the new one back Tuesday, then the previous one will be remade by the ballot board and counted with everybody else's," McQueen explained.

She says a majority of the corrected ballots they resent to voters have come back, and that those ballots have a special code to let officials know it's the second. They'll pull the defective ballot if it had been sent back, just so a voter doesn't vote twice.

As for that plain letter: "We had so many we were trying to get out, we just put a letter in and slammed it through the copy machine and sent them out because we wanted to give voters the time to get them back in," McQueen said.

"It's a relief knowing that the originals will count now," Williamson said, "but it was just kind of frustrating because it was not going to count, what I did originally."

When the county discovered the error, they contacted the Texas Secretary of State's office, who gave them the go ahead to go with this plan.

More than 3,400 absentee ballots were requested from Brazos County.

Brazos County ran into problems two years ago concerning Spanish language voting material. Local officials avoided a Department of Justice lawsuit by agreeing to take care of Spanish-speaking voters in the future.

The 1,000 some-odd ballots that were sent out originally did not have appropriate Spanish-language info on the College Station bond election. Only College Station residents will decide those issues.

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