Texas Dems work around election integrity law as they mail out "hundreds of thousands" of mail-in ballots

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

The Texas Legislature passed SB1 which ushers in election integrity reforms in 2021 and Governor Abbott signed it into law. Texas Democrats now complain that voter suppression is happening in the form of the number of rejections of mail-in ballot applications.

Texas lawmakers would not have had to pass election integrity reforms if the rookie Harris County Clerk, a young and aggressive Democrat, had not decided to use the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to create new ways of voting in the 2020 elections. It began when he announced that mail-in ballot applications would be mailed to every registered voter in Harris County – more than 2.4 million – which is against Texas election law. He was quickly stopped by court order. Other actions were taken by his office which had never been done before and was outside of election law, such as twenty-four-hour voting and drive-thru voting, as well as an increase of drop boxes for ballots that were frequently left unattended. Lawmakers in Austin passed legislation that makes election law uniform across the state and prevents local officials from going rogue in pursuit of their political agenda.

That is how we got here. Now that primary elections are coming up in March for the 2022 midterm elections, complaints are being reported of an unprecedented number of mail-in ballot applications being rejected. New voter identification requirements are being blamed. Some of the state’s largest counties are rejecting applications due to a failure to meet new requirements, most frequently a mismatch between the requirements and the data the state has on file to verify voters.

Under Texas’ new voting law, absentee voters must include their driver’s license number or state ID number or, if they don’t have one, the last four digits of their Social Security number on their applications. If they don’t have those IDs, voters can indicate they have not been issued that identification. Counties must match those numbers against the information in an individual’s voter file to approve them for a mail-in ballot.

In Harris County, 208 applications — roughly 16% of the 1,276 applications received so far — have been rejected based on the new rules. That includes 137 applications on which voters had not filled out the new ID requirements and 71 applications that included an ID number that wasn’t in the voter’s record.

In Travis County, officials said they’ve rejected about half of the roughly 700 applications they’ve received so far, with the “vast majority” of rejections based on the new voting law.

In Bexar County, officials have rejected 200 applications on which the ID section was not filled out. Another 125 were rejected because the voter had provided their driver’s license number on the application, but that number was not in their voter record.

Texas has a specific list of requirements for who is eligible for mail-in voting. These include anyone over the age of 65, as well as voters who are disabled, voters who will be out of their county of residence during the voting period, or have an illness that prevents voting in person. Texas has never had universal mail-in voting, a top priority for state Democrats at this point. Local officials are not allowed to send out mail-in ballot applications unsolicited. However, county parties and individual groups do send out applications to those over the age of 65 as a part of their get-out-the-vote efforts.

The Texas Democratic Party announced this week that it will “work around” new voting laws and send out hundreds of thousands of vote-by-mail applications to Texans age 65 and older. The move is being touted as sidestepping changes in the law. Apparently, Democrats are fond of workarounds. Remember it was likely a retweet by Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain that boasted about using OSHA for vaccine mandates as a workaround that contributed to the Supreme Court striking that down this week.

A driver’s license number or a social security number can be used to fulfill voter id requirements for mail-in voting. However, the state doesn’t have both numbers on file for all voters, resulting in some rejections now.

Last summer, the Texas secretary of state’s office indicated that 2,045,419 registered voters lacked one of the two numbers in their voter file despite the office’s efforts to backfill that information in the state’s voter rolls. Another 266,661 voters didn’t have either number on file.

Those numbers have since dropped. As of Dec. 20, 702,257 voters had only one number on file, while 106,911 didn’t have either, according to updated figures provided by the Texas secretary of state’s office.

Meanwhile, 493,823 registered voters didn’t have a driver’s license on file, which is the first number voters are asked to provide on both applications to register to vote and applications to vote by mail.

Some county election officials are pointing to outdated applications being used as a reason for rejection. These may be coming from campaigns and political parties who don’t have the updated applications requiring driver license numbers as identification. There is a way to correct applications provided in the new voting law. County officials provide voters with a rejection notice and information on how to correct it. This process includes a new online ballot tracker. Some officials are getting nervous because the deadline for applications is coming up on February 18. It takes time for local offices to process applications. Some offices are hiring additional people to handle the process.

Requiring voter id is not voter suppression. Democrats use it as an excuse to cry foul while Republicans see it as a common sense way of assuring election integrity. The press is only too happy to run stories using Democrat talking points so expect more of this during the midterm election cycle. The truth is that states like Texas have increased early voting periods. During early voting a voter can cast a ballot at any voting location in their county at their convenience, not only in their precinct as is required on election day. Perhaps Delaware should consider more opportunities for voters, too.