Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1 back in September 2021, which banned drive-thru voting, overnight early voting hours, and changes to mall-in ballots that include not being able to drop off a mail-in ballot by hand until election day.
With voting for the March 1st primary underway, the bill is already leading to a massive headache for Texas citizens; the problems range from running out of paper to print out voter registration forms to flat out rejecting them. As NPR notes, “Harris County — Texas’ largest county, which is home to Houston — election officials said they’d received 6,548 mail-in ballots as of Saturday and had returned almost 2,500 — nearly 38% — for correction because of an incorrect ID.”
According to Newsweek, Gov. Abbott states that mail-in ballot errors are happening because election officials are misinterpreting the law. Another provision of Senate Bill 1 is that IDs used by voters have to match the one on their voter registration record. Some voters don’t remember and are concerned that if an error happens, they won’t have enough time to get it corrected.
Communications operations manager and spokesperson for Abbott, Nan Tolson, spoke to Newsweek about where the errors are coming from:
“The bottom line is that counties should not be rejecting valid mail ballot applications,” Nan Tolson, communications operations manager and spokesperson for Abbott, told Newsweek.
“Reports of high rejection rates of mail ballot applications at the county level are the result of election officials erroneously interpreting the law and going to the press instead of the Texas Secretary of State’s office for assistance,” she said.
“The decision by county election officials to reject valid mail ballot applications harms those eligible voters who have properly submitted their applications,” Tolson added. “The Secretary of State’s office has worked diligently to ensure counties have access to the resources and information they need to process mail ballot applications in accordance with the new law, including issuing new guidance and holding a formal training with counties.”
Senior staff attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, James Slattery, says while officials can catch mistakes, it’s still going to take time to mail the ballot back–leading to a confusing process.
“The county may — but is not required to — contact the voter and say, ‘You can either cancel your mail ballot and vote in person, or come to the clerk’s office in person within six days of the election to fix the problem,’ “ he says. “That is a very convoluted process ... that obviously is not helpful for people who are not in Texas.”
President of the League of Women Voters of Texas, Grace Chimene, also pointed out the difficulties for older and disabled voters:
“To be told that there’s changes like this and then the expectation that they are supposed to log on in a complicated manner and be able to figure out how to update their voter registration card, I think it is really a shame,” she says.