A rapid rise in rejected mail-in voting applications and ballots. Limited resources among election workers. Confusion galore, and a March 1 primary election quickly approaching.
This is the reality in Texas as SB 1—a controversial voting bill signed into law last year—goes into effect. With primary voting already underway, election officials, advocates, and everyday voters are struggling to navigate the newly enacted rules, with little room for error.
And folks on the ground are sounding the alarm, concerned about disenfranchisement among perfectly eligible voting populations.
“Honestly, it’s been an absolute nightmare,” Charlie Bonner, communications director for the voting-rights group MOVE Texas, told The Daily Beast.
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast
SB 1 is jam-packed with new rules for voting throughout Texas. Among those is a provision requiring voters to provide a driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on their mail-in voting applications and ballots. The number provided must match what the state has on file for any given voter.
Opponents worry that’s a gateway to rejection—with the potential for mail-ballot applications or mail-ballots themselves to be bounced because their identification information doesn’t match the voter’s file. Advocates are also concerned about a lack of awareness of the new law, potentially causing voters to unknowingly leave the identification information off their forms.
The current rejection rate for mail-ballot applications in Texas seems to support that worry.
Officials across the state are reporting higher-than-usual defect rates for mail-ballot applications. Leah Shah, spokesperson for Harris County Elections, told The Daily Beast her county is seeing an 11 percent rejection rate specific to the new laws. Last month, officials in Travis County said they were rejecting about half of the mail-in ballot applications they received, according to the Texas Tribune, while 325 applications were rejected in Bexar County for failing to provide an ID number or providing one that was not on file.