EL PASO, Texas -- Mail-in ballots for a special election to fill two seats on El Paso City Council are exceeding the number of early voting ballots cast by 64%.
That's something the El Paso County elections administrator admits she has never seen before. Lisa Wise also believes those mail-in ballots could decide the outcome of the Dec. 14 special election.
Even though the majority of the ballots cast in this election are mailed in, ABC-7 spoke to an early voter who prefers casting her ballot the old fashioned way.
Dora Hernandez just cast her ballot in an election which has only two items, the District 3 and 6 city council seats.
Wise believes more people are voting by mail-in rather than how Hernandez chose to vote, because this is an off-calendar election in December, when most are focusing on the holidays.
Of 980 votes cast so far, 629 were mail-in ballots.
"I prefer to go into the place to vote. To me its easier. Just drive by, I was here, so I voted here," said Hernandez of early voting at a polling location.
Wise said the majority of voters who ask for mail-in ballots are people over the age of 65.
ABC-7 asked Wise if mail-in ballots could open the door to fraud by someone, like a caretaker, forging the voter's signature.
"When those are returned, they're reviewed by two different boards, a signature verification and a ballot board opening. So there's a lot of steps that go through our ballot-by-mail process. It's not just going in, getting a flier, filling something out and sending it in," responded Wise.
She said the signature on the ballot is matched with the signiture first used when signing up for mail-in ballots.
Wise adds that elections workers check every other year to see if voters are either deceased, felons or want to be suspended from the mail-in ballot list.
Wise noted that if current trends continue, mail-in ballots could determine the outcome of the Dec. 14 election.
"I believe in an election that has such low turnout as this, yes it could be decided by a dozen votes, 20 votes, 30 votes," explained Wise.
Wise anticipates this election could cost city taxpayers as much as $200,000.
Early voting ends Dec. 10.