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Dallas County absentee voters say mailed ballots are inexplicably being returned with days left before election

A U.S. Postal Service spokesman said the agency had alerted county officials to the issue last week.

Updated at 10 p.m. Tuesday: Revised with response from the U.S. Postal Service.

Multiple Dallas County absentee voters have reported submitting their ballots only to have them returned in the mail for no apparent reason — with just days to go before the election.

“It has absolutely no markings on it,” said Dallas resident Dorit Suffness, describing her returned parcel. “It doesn’t say why. It just comes back.”

Suffness, who organizes voter registration at Richland College for the League of Women Voters, said fellow organization members had reported such instances on a group call last week.

Then, the ballots she and her husband submitted both recently came back, too — “confirming that those stories were not aberrations,” she said.

Dallas County elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole said that she was aware of the concerns and that her office is investigating.

“We don’t know why it’s happening, whether it’s certain areas or what the issue is,” Pippins-Poole said, noting that officials have received 15,000 absentee ballots thus far. She said her staff is contacting postal officials to alert them to the situation.

But U.S. Postal Service spokesman Albert Ruiz said the agency had previously discussed the potential problem with Pippins-Poole’s office, saying the barcodes on the pre-printed envelopes did not match the address.

“They were made aware prior to the election and even as late as last week,” Ruiz said.

Mail-in absentee ballot materials photographed at the Dallas County Elections Department on Monday, May 18, 2020, in Dallas.
Mail-in absentee ballot materials photographed at the Dallas County Elections Department on Monday, May 18, 2020, in Dallas.(Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)

Roommates Norma Collins and Julia Diffily, both of Dallas, mailed their ballots on Tuesday, only for them to come back on Thursday. They took the returned ballots to the post office, where a postal worker re-scanned them and sent them on their way.

“Now, we’re just holding our breath hoping we don’t see them back here on Monday,” Collins said.

After hearing about other, similar stories, Suffness, Collins and Diffily said they worry about voters who may just now be receiving returned ballots with so few days to go before the election — or worse yet, who may just now be mailing them only to possibly have them bounce back too late to do anything about it.

Pippins-Poole said that as long as a ballot is postmarked by Election Day, “we’ll take it.”

Suffness also fears that some might end up having to take their returned ballots to crowded polling places — “which is what we were trying to avoid in the first place.”

“Obviously it’s a problem, because it’s happening to multiple people,” she said.

Collins said the situation is “very concerning.”

“It’s not a good thing,” she said. “They need to fix it, whatever it is, before November, that’s for sure.”

Marc Ramirez. Marc Ramirez is a veteran narrative/lifestyles journalist and food/drink enthusiast. In addition to the Dallas Morning News, he has worked for the Seattle Times, The Wall Street Journal and Phoenix New Times and has degrees from the University of Notre Dame and the University of California-Berkeley. When life gives him lemons, he makes Aviations.

mramirez@dallasnews.com /MarcRamirez.Journalist @typewriterninja
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