Texas reported 27,000 mail-in ballots for primary rejection

This puts the rate of rejected mail-in ballots in Texas on track to significantly exceed previous elections.

AUSTIN, Texas – More than 27,000 absentee ballots in Texas have been flagged for rejection in the first test of new voting restrictions enacted in the United States, jeopardizing votes cast by Democrats and Republicans and in the counties large and small, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

This puts the rate of rejected mail-in ballots in Texas on track to significantly exceed previous elections. The preliminary numbers — reported by Texas counties after the votes were tallied in the state’s March 1 primary — are the most comprehensive picture yet of how the new election rules put in place by the counties Republicans after the 2020 election made it harder for thousands of voters from both parties. Some will end up not counting their ballots at all.

Rejected absentee ballots are relatively rare in a typical election. But the initial rejection rate among Texas primary mail-in voters was about 17% across 120 counties, according to county-by-county figures obtained by AP. These counties represented the vast majority of the nearly 3 million voters in Texas’ first primary.

Although the final number of reduced ballots was lower, early numbers suggest Texas’ rejection rate will far exceed the 2020 general election, when federal data showed less than 1% of mail-in ballots across the state were rejected.

“It took me three tries and 28 days but I got my ballot and voted,” said Pamiel Gaskin, 75, of Houston. Like many mail-rejected voters, she did not list an ID number that matched the new Texas law.

At this time, the numbers do not represent the number of Texas ballots actually rejected. Voters had until Monday to ‘fix’ rejected ballots, which in most cases meant providing ID now required under a sweeping law the governor signed last fall Republican Greg Abbott. County election officials say they worked feverishly to contact those voters on time, in many cases successfully, and a full and final tally of rejected ballots in Texas is expected to be finalized in the coming days.

But already, dozens of mail-in ballots have been disqualified for good.

Along the Texas border, El Paso County reported that 725 absentee ballots were officially discarded and not counted after a final canvass Monday – about 16% of all those ballots cast. In the booming suburb of Austin, Williamson County had a final count of 521 rejected ballots, split nearly evenly between Republican and Democratic primary voters.

About 8,300 absentee ballots in Texas were rejected in the 2020 election, according to the US Elections Assistance Commission.

Some rejected mail-in voters could have voted in person later. Antonio Riveria, El Paso County deputy election administrator, said Wednesday that number was unknown in his office. But they generally reject far fewer mail-in ballots.

“It’s a lot less. Maybe 10,” he said.

The numbers underscore how surprised Texas voters — in big cities and rural, red and blue outposts — were by the new law, which Abbott and other Republicans said would make it “easier to vote and harder to cheat.

At least 17 other states will also vote this year under new election laws, many of which have been pushed by Republican lawmakers who have taken particular aim at mail-in ballots after states expanded options to make voting safer during the coronavirus outbreak. Some of the restrictions were fueled by the GOP’s persistent false allegations of widespread fraud during President Joe Biden’s victory.

Abbott’s office did not return requests for comment on the number of rejected ballots.

Texas Secretary of State John Scott, whom Abbott appointed as the state’s Chief Electoral Officer, called the high rejection rate from voters unfamiliar with the new rules and said he was confident the numbers will fall in the next election.

New Texas voting-by-mail rules require voters to return ballots with a personal identification number — such as a driver’s license number — which must then match the number in voter registration files. voters. Other new rules in Texas ban drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting centers and make it a crime for a government official to solicit mail-in ballots.

The law also requires counties to publicly release a one-page “reconciliation report” of voters and ballots after each election as an added measure of transparency. The report asks counties to include the number of absentee ballots and the number of those flagged for rejection.

The AP obtained reports from 120 counties — nearly half of Texas’ 254 — through county websites and by contacting all counties that had not released a report publicly.

In Texas’ largest county around Houston, Harris County officials said more than 11,000 mail-in ballots had been flagged for rejection as of March 2. But in the county’s preliminary report dated a day later, the number of rejected absentee ballots was listed at 3,277. On Tuesday, Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria said she resigned following a failed vote count.

Houston Democrats have been among the most outspoken about Texas’ new election laws, which they say are designed to weaken minority turnout. But Republican-leaning counties also struggled with the new rules.

In Parker County, which former President Donald Trump carried by a 4-to-1 margin in 2020, the county reported 250 rejected or pending mail-in ballots out of 1,100 mail-in ballots — about 23%. Along the Texas coast in Nueces County, which Trump narrowly won, the rejection rate was 8%.

Kara Sands, the Nueces County election administrator, said her office urged voters to include more than one ID number as a safeguard against having their ballot rejected. But she said her office was not inundated with voter frustration.

“We really haven’t had a lot of people complaining about it,” she said.

Texas is holding primary polls in May and election officials say their focus now is on educating voters to avoid a repeat next time around. Williamson County election administrator Christopher Davis said the final rejection rate of 11.5% was “by far the highest we’ve ever seen” in the county of more than 600,000 people.

“The hope is that we reduce this rejection rate,” he said.

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