“Thousands of votes were, in fact, thrown out, directly as a result of a new requirement in the law. A new AP analysis of data from Texas found that a whopping 13 percent of the state’s absentee ballots were discarded or uncounted.
And in the state’s biggest county, the new procedures it mandated contributed to a hugely messy vote-counting process.
“It’s been every bit as catastrophic as we feared it would be,” said James Slattery, a senior staff attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “I think the onus is on the legislature to acknowledge the harm that it did to Texas voters by passing Senate Bill 1 and make amends by repealing it next year.”
But that probably won’t happen given that key Republicans who pushed for the law have continued to defend it.”
“The statewide rejection rate for mail-in ballots has typically been between 1 and 2 percent in past elections and was about 1 percent in the 2020 general election when mail-in voting rates were much higher. But in the 2022 primaries, county-level rejection rates ranged from 6 to 22 percent, according to data compiled by the Texas Civil Rights Project”
“In four counties that reported the reason they had rejected mail-in ballots, those identification requirements were to blame over 90 percent of the time. In Harris County, which encompasses Houston and is the most populous county in the state, it was 99.6 percent.
This was foreseeable. Even some Republican officials were worried about mail-in ballot rejections ahead of the primary. Texas Secretary of State John Scott said during a February town hall that it was his “biggest concern” of this election cycle. In a statement Tuesday, Sam Taylor, a spokesperson for Scott, acknowledged the issues with mail-in ballots during the primaries and said his office is devoting a significant portion of its voter education efforts to the new ID requirements.”
“Voters whose mail-in ballots were flagged for rejection did have the opportunity to correct them to ensure that they were counted. But the process proved confusing and looked different depending on when the problem with a voter’s ID number was discovered.
“You can see all the different ways that this can go wrong. What if the ballot never gets back to the voter? Or they don’t see it and think it’s junk mail? Or they correct the number issue online but don’t realize they need to send the ballot back?” Slattery said.
For some voters, the process was just too arduous.
“A lot of voters get these letters of rejection, and they just don’t bother,” said Michele Valentino, a Democratic election judge in Dallas.
Some flaws can be expected when implementing a new system for the first time, but this bodes poorly considering how low turnout was relative to general elections: Fewer than 1 in 5 voters cast ballots in the primaries, which is higher than in the past six midterm primaries but still a lot lower than the roughly 46 percent of Texans who showed up for the last midterm general election in 2018.
“I can see this issue compounding and worsening as we reach the midterms this year,” said Jasleen Singh, counsel in the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice, where she focuses on voting rights and elections. “That there’s even this much hardship that voters are encountering at this stage is incredibly concerning and dangerous for democracy.”
The AP analysis showed a higher rate of rejections in Democratic than Republican counties (15.1% to 9.1%). That was also predictable: Voters of color typically bear the biggest burden from any restrictions on voting, and they make up a large share of many of those Democratic-leaning counties.”