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Texas Elections Officials Returning High Numbers of Mail-In Ballots

Texas State flag
Texas State flag. (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 15 February 2022 12:22 PM EST

Texas elections officials have returned thousands of mail-in votes due to ID requirement issues just weeks before the state's March 1 primary, NPR reported.

Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, signed an elections overhaul into law Sept. 7 after Democrats spent months protesting what they say are efforts to weaken minority turnout and preserve the GOP's dominance.

The Justice Department then filed a November lawsuit against Texas alleging the law improperly restricts disabled voters or voters who cannot read or write from being able to receive adequate assistance at voting locations.

Harris County officials said they had returned for correction nearly 2,500 of 6,548 mail-in ballots received — nearly 38%. Harris includes Houston and is the state's most populous county.

"Mail ballots are people's votes," Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria told NPR. "So, I am very concerned — not just with the complexity of the process, but how that added complexity is going to increase the number of mail ballots that we have to reject."

The new Texas law states that only voters who are over 65, disabled, out of town or in jail can cast a mail-in ballot.

The ID that voters use on a mail-in ballot and on the envelope — driver's license number or partial Social Security number — must match what's on the voter registration record.

One problem has been that voters applying for a mail-in ballot didn't remember what ID they used to register, NPR reported.

"All of us county election officials are unfortunately anticipating a higher number of mail ballot rejections," Williamson County Elections Administrator Chris Davis, told NPR.

"And the window to fix that is much, much narrower."

Election officials can send back the ballots to be fixed if problems are caught early. The voter then can mail it back again.

However, that procedure becomes more challenging as Election Day nears.

"The county may — but is not required to — contact the voter and say, 'You can either cancel your mail ballot and vote in person, or come to the clerk's office in person within six days of the election to fix the problem,' " James Slattery, a senior staff attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, told NPR.

"That is a very convoluted process ... that obviously is not helpful for people who are not in Texas."

Sam Taylor, assistant secretary of state for communications, told NPR that Texas voters already registered can update their registration online — even after the registration deadline.

"You are not changing anything by adding information to your voter registration record, you are just making it more complete," Taylor told NPR. "So that doesn't start the clock over in terms of whether or not you were registered by the deadline for the March primary."

Taylor added that his office recommended that voters provide both their Social Security and driver's license numbers on their application and return ballots, just in case.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Texas elections officials have returned thousands of mail-in votes due to ID requirement issues just weeks before the state's March 1 primary, NPR reported.
texas, elections officials, mail in, ballots
Tuesday, 15 February 2022 12:22 PM
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