Lots of of Texans searching for to vote by mail within the upcoming March major elections are seeing their purposes for ballots rejected by native election workplaces attempting to adjust to stricter voting guidelines enacted by Texas Republicans final 12 months.
Election officers in among the state’s largest counties are rejecting an alarming variety of mail-in purposes as a result of they don’t meet the state’s new identification necessities. Some purposes are being rejected due to a mismatch between the brand new identification necessities and the information the state has on file to confirm voters.
Beneath Texas’ new voting legislation, absentee voters should embody their driver’s license quantity or state ID quantity or, in the event that they don’t have one, the final 4 digits of their Social Safety quantity on their purposes. In the event that they don’t have these IDs, voters can point out they haven’t been issued that identification. Counties should match these numbers in opposition to the knowledge in a person’s voter file to approve them for a mail-in poll.
In Harris County, 208 purposes — roughly 16% of the 1,276 purposes obtained to this point — have been rejected based mostly on the brand new guidelines. That features 137 purposes on which voters had not stuffed out the brand new ID necessities and 71 purposes that included an ID quantity that wasn’t within the voter’s file.
In Travis County, officers mentioned they’ve rejected about half of the roughly 700 purposes they’ve obtained to this point, with the “overwhelming majority” of rejections based mostly on the brand new voting legislation.
In Bexar County, officers have rejected 200 purposes on which the ID part was not stuffed out. One other 125 had been rejected as a result of the voter had offered their driver’s license quantity on the applying, however that quantity was not of their voter file.
“It’s disturbing that our senior residents who’ve relished and embraced voting by mail at the moment are having to leap via some hoops, and it’s upsetting when now we have to ship a rejection letter [when] we are able to see they’ve voted with us by mail for years,” mentioned Jacque Callanen, the Bexar County election administrator.
Texas has strict guidelines outlining who can obtain a paper poll that may be stuffed out at house and returned within the mail or dropped off in individual on Election Day. Solely voters who’re 65 or older routinely qualify. In any other case, voters should qualify beneath a restricted set of causes for needing a mail-in poll. These embody being absent from the county throughout the election interval or a incapacity or sickness that might preserve them from voting in individual with no need assist or that makes a visit to the polls dangerous to their well being.
All through final 12 months’s protracted debate over the brand new voting legislation, state lawmakers had been warned about potential points that might come up from the brand new ID matching necessities, partly as a result of the state doesn’t have each a driver’s license and Social Safety quantity for all the roughly 17 million Texans on the voter rolls. Voters will not be required to supply each numbers once they register to vote.
Final summer time, the Texas secretary of state’s workplace indicated that 2,045,419 registered voters lacked one of many two numbers of their voter file regardless of the workplace’s efforts to backfill that data within the state’s voter rolls. One other 266,661 voters didn’t have both quantity on file.
These numbers have since dropped. As of Dec. 20, 702,257 voters had just one quantity on file, whereas 106,911 didn’t have both, in keeping with up to date figures offered by the Texas secretary of state’s workplace.
In the meantime, 493,823 registered voters didn’t have a driver’s license on file, which is the primary quantity voters are requested to supply on each purposes to register to vote and purposes to vote by mail.
The brand new legislation can also be tripping up voters who could also be unaware of the brand new ID necessities. Callanen mentioned she needed to reject 30 voters who submitted an outdated utility type that didn’t embody the brand new ID subject. Election officers in Williamson County, which has processed a complete of 305 purposes to vote by mail, mentioned the identical challenge plagued a bit of the purposes that they rejected.
The sources of the outdated purposes are unclear. Whereas the Legislature banned county election officers from proactively sending out purposes to vote by mail, even to voters who routinely qualify, voters can nonetheless obtain unsolicited purposes from campaigns and political events.
Republican state lawmakers wrote the brand new ID necessities into sweeping laws, generally known as Senate Invoice 1, that additional restricted the state’s voting course of and narrowed native management of elections. Becoming a member of a broader legislative push to ratchet up voting guidelines throughout the nation, Texas Republicans billed the proposals contained in SB 1 as an effort to safeguard elections from fraud, regardless of no proof that it happens on a widespread scale.
Warning it might elevate new limitations to voting, SB 1 was denounced by advocates for voters with disabilities, voter advocacy teams and civil rights organizations with histories of combating legal guidelines that might hurt voters of coloration. It additionally prompted Democrats to flee the state final summer time to delay consideration of the laws, leaving the Texas Home with out sufficient members to conduct enterprise for weeks. The wide-ranging legislation additionally faces a number of federal lawsuits.
Voters whose purposes are rejected due to the ID necessities are alleged to have a possibility to repair the difficulty. Constructing on Democratic proposals, the brand new voting legislation additionally created a brand new correction course of for mail-in voting, together with errors on purposes. That course of begins when county officers present voters with a discover that their utility was rejected and data on the right way to appropriate the defect, together with via a brand new on-line poll tracker.
A spokesperson for the secretary of state’s workplace mentioned it might be offering “particular steering to the counties within the close to future to handle any excellent questions on this course of.”
However the window for corrections is narrowing. County officers can obtain purposes to vote by mail till Feb. 18, but it surely takes time to course of purposes and put together supplies to tell voters of a rejection.
In Bexar County, Callanen is budgeting to rent two short-term staff simply to deal with processing rejections when the “deluge” of purposes hits nearer to the deadline.
Disclosure: The Texas Secretary of State has been a monetary supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan information group that’s funded partly by donations from members, foundations and company sponsors. Monetary supporters play no position within the Tribune’s journalism. Discover a full listing of them right here.
This text initially appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/01/13/texas-voting-mail-rejections/.
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