New voting law leading to high rejection of mail-in ballot applications in Texas

Hundreds of mail-in ballot applications are being rejected in some of Texas’s largest counties because of the new voting law passed by the Republican-led state legislature last year, according to multiple election officials.

Election officials in Harris County, Travis County and Bexar County say they are rejecting a high volume of mail-in ballot applications for the March 1 primary. The counties include Houston, Austin and San Antonio, respectively.

Under the new voting law, voters must include either their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on their applications. Those numbers are then matched against voters’ records. For a voter to be approved for a mail-in ballot, the numbers have to be the same.

However, not every voter remembers which number they gave when they initially registered to vote, leading to the application rejections.

Harris County has rejected 208 of 1,276 applications, the county’s communications director Leah Shah, told CNN.

Shah called the rejection rate “a red flag.” She also noted other aspects of the restrictive voting law — which includes a provision that bans election officials from sending unsolicited mail-in voting applications that would include information on how to properly fill out the applications — meant voters are left with little help.

“We have our hands tied as far as what we can and can’t say or teach the public regarding [mail-in ballot applications],” said Shah.

Meanwhile, Travis County’s election clerk said they’ve rejected about half of the roughly 700 applications they’ve received, according to the Texas Tribune. CNN reached out to the Travis County clerk for a comment.

Republican Secretary of State John Scott called the rejection rate in Travis County “surprising” before calling on the county to reexamine the applications.

“We call on Travis County to immediately review and re-examine the mail ballot applications in question to determine whether they were processed in accordance with state law, with the goal of reinstating and minimizing any disruption to eligible voters who have properly submitted their application for ballot by mail. We anxiously await the results of their re-processing of these mail ballot applications,” said Scott in a statement on Friday.

Scott went on to urge county officials to reach out to his office for assistance “on the correct method of processing mail ballot applications.”

In Bexar County, officials have rejected 200 applications on which the ID section was not filled out and another 125 were rejected because the voter provided their driver’s license number which wasn’t on file, according to the Tribune.

In other counties, officials are rejecting mail-in ballots at an alarming rate as well.

Cidney Compton, the absentee coordinator in Denton County, told CNN that voters there are using outdated applications that don’t include an ID section. Compton said the county has received less than 200 applications and has denied about 50.

The process for voters across the state to fix their applications involves election officials sending them a rejection letter with an explanation of the missing information along with a new application. Voters can then either send in the new application or correct the information through a new online portal, according to guidance from the secretary of state’s office and election officials.

This is the first election cycle in which the new voting law is in effect after being enacted last September. The bill was part of a national push by Republicans seizing on Trump’s false lies of the 2020 election to clamp down access to the ballot box.

Texas already has restrictions for who is eligible for mail-in ballots. Under the law, those who are over age 65, out of the county on Election Day or have a disability or illness that prevents them from voting in person are eligible.

Voting rights groups are now calling on voters to be proactive about educating themselves on the new voting law.

“In the meantime, we urge all Texans to be your own advocates for your freedom to vote,” Common Cause Texas Associate Director Stephanie G√≥mez said in a statement Friday. “Make a plan to vote and think about contingency plans so that you can still vote even if you hit one of the barriers that were created by SB 1.”

The-CNN-Wire
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