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Texas Absentee Vote Expected to Play Role in July Vote

Although mail-in votes raise concerns for voter fraud, Texas absentee ballots are expected to play a major hand in the 33rd Congressional District race on July 31.

Controversy surrounding the validity of absentee voting is already making headlines in Texas even though the primary election is not until July 31.

According to a Star-Telegram article, Texas has seen an increase in the demand for mail-in ballots over the last several years.

The highest increase was during the last presidential election when more then 76,000 Texans requested to vote by mail. The article reports that two years later, for the 2010 mid-term election, 18,000 voted absentee, and 9,000 Texans have already requested mail-in ballots for 2012.

"If there's voter fraud -- if there is -- that's where it is, with the mail-in ballots," Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn said. "We have no way of knowing what happens in the voter's home or if someone is out there trying to coerce votes."

Raborn said that most of the contention with absentee voting flares up after the election and is usually reported by the losing party.

Still, this election process intended for the elderly, disabled, out of town or those in jail but not convicted of a felany does pose a risk for fraud.

Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas said that once the ballot is sent to the voter, there is no way of regulating the vote. The state cannot know if the voter was coerced to vote a certain way or not.

"They are filled out at kitchen tables. And we can't see what's happening at those tables," he said. "But the vast majority of them are legal votes."

Brandon Rottinghaus, associate political science professor at the University of Houston, said: "In general, there is always going to be worry. On one hand, this is one of our most sacred rights -- our democracy. But it's an imperfect system. There will always be a concern that the ballot is not being as protected as it should be."

However, this system of voting allows more citizens to play a vital part in their state and nation’s democratic process and helps shape the voting outcome. The Star Telegram reports, “Mail-in ballots are expected to play a significant role in the 33rd Congressional District race as the top two Democratic vote-getters from the May 29 election face off July 31.”

Tina Trenkner is the Deputy Editor for GOVERNING.com. She edits the Technology and Health newsletters.
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