AUSTIN, TX – From the beaches of the Gulf to the West Texas desert, Texans take pride in our independence, love to spend time with our families and keep each other safe. That’s why when it comes to voting, we want to be able to find the best option for each person in our family. This includes our tios y tias who are traveling, abuelos y abuelas who might not be able to get up and out of the house like they used to, or everyone else who has been affected during the pandemic. For our families, we want voting by mail to be a safe and easy option for any eligible voter who needs it.
For the 2022 elections, the voting process has been anything but easy. Texas election officials are scrambling to process thousands of mail-in ballot applications ahead of the Texas Primary Election on March 1st. Following the passage of Senate Bill 1 (SB1) last year, Texas has some of the strictest requirements for applying to vote with a ballot by mail. Each application must include a voter’s driver’s license, state ID, Election Identification Certificate number, or the voter’s partial Social Security number. This number must match the ID number in the voter’s registration file. As a result of the new matching requirements, many applications are being rejected.
Under Texas law, individuals need to fall into certain categories in order to be eligible to vote with a ballot by mail. The categories include individuals who are elderly, people who will be out of the state for an extended period of time, individuals who are sick or disabled, people who expect to give birth around election day and individuals who are in jail but are eligible to vote. So why would a ballot application be rejected, even if the applicant meets the requirements?
One major problem is the fact that when it comes time to submit your ballot, the ID number a voter must submit needs to match the same identification that they used when originally registering to vote. So, someone who registered to vote with a state ID but now has a Texas driver’s license and puts the driver’s license number on their application could result in the ballot being rejected. For people who have been registered to vote for a long time, and maybe have voted by mail for years, it is especially hard to remember which form of ID they used when registering.
The rollout of new SB1 ballot by mail requirements has been as confusing for elections officials as it has been for the voters trying to apply. Texas has launched an online system allowing voters to check their application status and make corrections, but according to the Houston Chronicle, local elections officials did not begin learning how to use that system until late January after thousands of applications had already been rejected. As a result of the confusion, several counties are rejecting as much as 50% of the ballot by mail applications they have received.
While this mess is frustrating, it is sadly predictable. From inside and outside the Texas Capitol, to every corner of our state, and all the way to Washington DC, our community spoke, tweeted and organized against the chaos and confusion we knew would come with SB1’s overly-strict requirements. We knew that SB1 was a bad idea, and now we are seeing it in action. Texas has changed the rules without investing the time to communicate with voters and train elections officials. So what can we do to make sure all votes are counted, and everyone can vote safely and easily?
First, we have to stay aware of how our elections are being run and continue showing up for each other in our neighborhoods, at the Capitol and at the ballot box. Texas lawmakers are so focused on making it hard to vote because they know that when we all vote freely, we have the power to vote them out. Our gente are persistent and resilient, and we will always find a way to go vote! So if you or anyone you know still needs to check your registration, visit joltinitiative.org/vote
For more information on voting early, visit jolttx.org/early-voting/