A rushed rollout with tighter restrictions resulted in hundreds more mail ballots being sent back weeks before the 2022 primary.
This election marks the first since Republican Governor. Last fall, Greg Abbott signed into law major changes to Texas' election system. The March 1 primary is the main event. It's now as important as the actual races (including the nominations for governor or Congress) that how voting happens between now and then.
On Monday, hundreds opened across Texas. There were no major problems as early voting began.
However, hundreds of ballot applications and mail ballots returned in Texas have been a result of a slow introduction of voting rules by Republicans across the U.S. in the name election security.
Harris County officials assisted more than 40% of the first mail ballots from Houston. They were returned because they didn't include the required signatures and identification now required by Texas law.
"We're informing the voters to hopefully cure their ballots but voters in Texas are under assault," Harris County Judge Lina Heydalgo posted Monday on social media.
After being appointed by Abbott as Texas' elections chief, Secretary of State John Scott is now overseeing his first election. He said that the problems were due to voters adapting new rules.
He expects that the May runoffs will be more smooth and that the November elections will go smoothly. He also said he doesn't believe the problems so far or the concerns raised by local officials amounts to a failure of the state.
Scott stated, "I don’t know how much more time -- I don’t want to claim it wouldn’t have been useful, but it would have been beneficial," It's a new process, so I don't think more time will fix that problem. That is why I believe that new processes are a friction point, especially for those voters who were familiar with the old process.
Texas is one of at least 18 states to hold elections with heightened restrictions this year. This comes as a result of the repeated false claims by former President Donald Trump that the 2020 election had been stolen . Republicans rejected Democrats’ protest that these changes would deprive voters of their rights, especially minorities.
Because of the state's March 1 primary, Texas had two months to change how elections are run, which was much shorter than other states.
Texas's races are not very hotly contested. Republicans favor Abbott over a number of far-right challengers in his third-term campaign. Attorney General Ken Paxton, however, is fighting a harder primary under the shadow of an FBI investigation.
Democrat Beto O'Rourke is on a clear path to becoming the party's next governor. After FBI agents searched his house , one of the most important races in South Texas is where Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar faces a rematch with Jessica Cisneros.
The state refused to fulfill the League of Women Voters' request for thousands of voter registration applications from new U.S. citizens last month. This was due to paper supply chain shortages.
The county election offices then reported that they were being asked to return unusually many mail ballot applications due to the inability of required identification, such as a driver’s license or Social Security numbers, with the exception of those not containing this information. Now, the counties are returning completed ballots for this reason.
Voters can correct their ballots as long as they are returned by Election Day. Officials have been left waiting to see how many return.
Scott stated that the rejection rate of mail ballot applications has fallen to below 5% by this month.
After serving in previous roles under Abbott's leadership, he was appointed Texas' chief electoral officer. However, his appointment caused alarm among voting rights groups after a brief stint with Trump’s legal team which challenged the 2020 election results. Scott resigned from the case within a few days, stating that he did not dispute the fact that President Joe Biden won.
Staci Decker, Kendall County Elections Administrator, said that mail ballot applications are low in the county's overwhelmingly Republican county. She stated that they will be unable to submit them in time for the primary. This is despite Trump winning by three-to-one in 2020.
For years, the mostly rural county kept a list that included about 400 voters. These people are then sent mail ballot applications. Texas Republicans added an interdiction this year to prevent government officials from actively sending mail ballots. They also threatened with felony charges and six-month imprisonment.
Decker stated that there were 400 people who waited for their applications to arrive and none did. Decker stated that her office sent 500 ballots this year to voters, a decrease from the 700-900 they usually mail.