(a) A marked ballot voted under this chapter must be returned to the early voting clerk in the official carrier envelope. The carrier envelope may be delivered in another envelope and must be transported and delivered only by:
(2) common or contract carrier; or
(3) subject to Subsection (a-1), in-person delivery by the voter who voted the ballot.
(a-1) The voter may deliver a marked ballot in person to the early voting clerk's office only while the polls are open on election day. A voter who delivers a marked ballot in person must present an acceptable form of identification described by Section 63.0101 .
(b) Except as provided by Subsection (c), a carrier envelope may not be returned in an envelope or package containing another carrier envelope.
(c) The carrier envelopes of persons who are registered to vote at the same address may be returned in the same envelope or package.
(d) Each carrier envelope that is delivered by a common or contract carrier must be accompanied by an individual delivery receipt for that particular carrier envelope that indicates the name and residence address of the individual who actually delivered the envelope to the carrier and the date, hour, and address at which the carrier envelope was received by the carrier. A delivery of carrier envelopes is prohibited by a common or contract carrier if the delivery originates from the address of:
(1) an office of a political party or a candidate in the election;
(2) a candidate in the election unless the address is the residence of the early voter;
(3) a specific-purpose or general-purpose political committee involved in the election; or
(4) an entity that requested that the election be held, unless the delivery is a forwarding to the early voting clerk.
(e) Carrier envelopes may not be collected and stored at another location for subsequent delivery to the early voting clerk. The secretary of state shall prescribe appropriate procedures to implement this subsection and to provide accountability for the delivery of the carrier envelopes from the voting place to the early voting clerk.
(f) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly possesses an official ballot or official carrier envelope provided under this code to another. Unless the person possessed the ballot or carrier envelope with intent to defraud the voter or the election authority, this subsection does not apply to a person who, on the date of the offense, was:
(1) related to the voter within the second degree by affinity or the third degree by consanguinity, as determined under Subchapter B, Chapter 573, Government Code; 1
(2) physically living in the same dwelling as the voter;
(3) an early voting clerk or a deputy early voting clerk;
(4) a person who possesses a ballot or carrier envelope solely for the purpose of lawfully assisting a voter who was eligible for assistance under Section 86.010 and complied fully with:
(A) Section 86.010 ; and
(B) Section 86.0051 , if assistance was provided in order to deposit the envelope in the mail or with a common or contract carrier;
(5) an employee of the United States Postal Service working in the normal course of the employee's authorized duties; or
(6) a common or contract carrier working in the normal course of the carrier's authorized duties if the official ballot is sealed in an official carrier envelope that is accompanied by an individual delivery receipt for that particular carrier envelope.
(g) An offense under Subsection (f) is a Class A misdemeanor unless the defendant possessed the ballot or carrier envelope without the request of the voter, in which case it is a felony of the third degree. If conduct that constitutes an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under any other law, the actor may be prosecuted under this section, the other law, or both.
(g-1) An offense under Subsection (g) is increased to the next higher category of offense if it is shown on the trial of an offense under this section that:
(1) the defendant was previously convicted of an offense under this code;
(2) the offense involved an individual 65 years of age or older; or
(3) the defendant committed another offense under this section in the same election.
(h) A ballot returned in violation of this section may not be counted. If the early voting clerk determines that the ballot was returned in violation of this section, the clerk shall make a notation on the carrier envelope and treat it as a ballot not timely returned in accordance with Section 86.011(c) . If the ballot is returned before the end of the period for early voting by personal appearance, the early voting clerk shall promptly mail or otherwise deliver to the voter a written notice informing the voter that:
(1) the voter's ballot will not be counted because of a violation of this code; and
(2) the voter may vote if otherwise eligible at an early voting polling place or the election day precinct polling place on presentation of the notice.
(i) In the prosecution of an offense under Subsection (f):
(1) the prosecuting attorney is not required to negate the applicability of the provisions of Subsections (f)(1)-(6) in the accusation charging commission of an offense;
(2) the issue of the applicability of a provision of Subsection (f)(1), (2), (3), (4), (5), or (6) is not submitted to the jury unless evidence of that provision is admitted; and
(3) if the issue of the applicability of a provision of Subsection (f)(1), (2), (3), (4), (5), or (6) is submitted to the jury, the court shall charge that a reasonable doubt on the issue requires that the defendant be acquitted.
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