Mail-in ballots face issues potentially impacting elections
Hundreds of mail-in ballots were flagged with many Texans casting their votes by mail blamed for failing to comply with new voting laws.
The new Texas voting law, Senate Bill 1 altered the election process by placing stricter ID laws for mail-in ballots, requiring voters to provide a driver’s license number or the last four digits of their social security and must match the information entered prior to registering.
“I don’t believe most voters realize the changes have taken place yet, although more should learn about it in the coming days as either they vote for the first time themselves or consume news stories about the reform,” said political science assistant professor Michael Kistner. “For those that are aware, I doubt the requirement of listing a driver’s license or social security number will be enough of a burden to dissuade them from voting.”
In order to participate in voting by mail for future elections, voters from this point forward must meet certain eligibility requirements such as having disabilities, being ages 65 or older and more.
With mail-in voting being accessible to those challenged by certain limitations, questions about what counties like Harris County, which is experiencing high levels of flagged ballots and now damaged ballots, are doing to encourage flagged voters to remedy, are being asked.
“Well the county’s elected officials including Harris County are trying to contact as many as those people as they can to try to get the issue resolved,” said political science assistant professor J. Bryan Cole. “But depending on the county and the number of people that they have that do that and the number of votes that need to be corrected, that’s a really tall order.”
With primary elections being early and generally having low participation, some people like Cole, believe there is still time to remedy the situation with voting campaigns designed to focus on correcting ballots for future elections.
“I think with the general election in November there’s gonna be a lot more people that are going to vote that may include people who are less likely to know about the law which could be harmful, but then at the same time because this law went into effect in December (2021) there’s gonna be a lot more time for different organizations including the Secretary of State’s office to do a public campaign like run commercials,” Cole said. “Like ‘Hey this is what you need to do,’ that sort of thing, like the public service announcements they had for the COVID vaccines for example, but that can be helpful going forward.”
Some like Kristner and Cole, in light of the unusually high rates of flagged mail-in ballots, said an audit by officials would be excessive as the problem is still fairly new and SB1 is still in its infancy.
“These decisions are being made by employees in the Secretary of State’s office who by and large are nonpartisan and are committed to faithfully executing the law as written,” Kristner said. “Unless the amount of rejected and uncorrected ballots is shockingly large, it’s probably better to wait until voters are more familiar with the system and hope the number of rejections goes down.”
However, even with the large number of flagged mail-in ballots being more of a short term problem at the moment, concern for correcting and updating voter information is a spotlight issue as a great deal of voter’s casting by mail tend to forget to update after switching addresses.
“It’s when you have to make this change suddenly and a lot of people register to vote and don’t have to re-register unless they move,” Cole said. “The best thing that Texans can do if they want to vote by mail is request the ballot as early as possible, which obviously is over now for the primaries, but request it as early as possible, fill it out as soon as possible so that if there’s an error or issue they have plenty of time in which to resolve it.”