By Eugene Scott
Election officials in one of the most populous counties in Texas have rejected about half of the applications for ballots because of the state’s new voting restrictions enacted by Republicans last year.
The clerk’s office in Travis County, the fifth-most-populous county and home to the capital of Austin, cited the law’s recent changes to identification requirements in rejecting about half of the 700 mail-in applications.
Other county clerk’s offices in the state, including those in Harris and Bexar counties, also are rejecting applications that fail to meet the new standard, or in which information doesn’t match the voter data on record.
Texas Republicans last year passed the bill establishing new limits on voting over the objections of Democrats, part of a wave of efforts by GOP-led states to impose new restrictions. Many in the Republican Party echoed former president Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election in arguing for the new restrictions.
The Texas law imposed new criminal penalties for violating voting laws, banned 24-hour and drive-through voting and allowed more access for partisan poll watchers. The Justice Department filed a lawsuit last November, alleging that the state’s restrictions disenfranchise eligible voters — including older Americans and people with disabilities — and that they violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Under the Texas law, ballot-by-mail applications must include a driver’s license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number. The identification number is then verified against the applicant’s voter registration record. If the numbers do not correspond, the new law requires that the application is rejected.
The Texas primary is one of the earliest in the nation, on March 1.
The clerk’s office in Travis said it does not have enough information from the secretary of state to provide voters with what they must do to fix their applications.
“Many other counties are experiencing the same high rejection rate,” the office said in a statement. “We have not received instructions from the state outlining what our office can do to assist voters in submitting a completed application.”
The clerk’s office plans to hold a news conference Tuesday to discuss the issue.
In Harris County, home to Houston, the state’s most populous city, about 16 percent of nearly 1,300 applications have been rejected so far based on the new rules, the Texas Tribune reported.
Officials in Bexar County — which includes San Antonio, the second-most-populous city — have rejected 325 applications because the identification section was left unfilled or because the driver’s license number provided on the application was not in the applicant’s voter record.
Last September, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed Senate Bill 1 into law, arguing that it was necessary to “solidify trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” but his critics disagreed and took their complaints to federal court.