(Headline USA) More than 27,000 mail ballots in Texas were flagged for rejection in the first test of new voting restrictions enacted across the U.S., according to an analysis by The Associated Press.
It puts the rate of rejected mail ballots in Texas on track to significantly surpass previous elections, a boon for election-integrity following a disasterous 2020 cycle in which left-wing operatives pushed increased mail-in balloting that created chaos and undermined public trust.
Rejected mail ballots are relatively uncommon in a typical election. But the initial rejection rate among mail voters in the Texas primary was roughly 17% across 120 counties, according to county-by-county figures obtained by AP. Those counties accounted for the vast majority of the nearly 3 million voters in Texas’ first-in-the-nation primary.
“It took me three tries and 28 days but I got my ballot and I voted,” said Pamiel Gaskin, 75, of Houston. Like many rejected mail voters, she did not list a matching identification number that Texas’ new law requires.
Although the final number of discounted ballots will be lower, the early numbers suggest Texas’ rejection rate will far exceed the 2020 general election, when federal data showed that less than 1% of mail ballots statewide were rejected.
In many blue-run regions, Democrat officials blatantly reduced the statutory standards for identification, signature verification and other safeguards.
Harris County, which encompasses the city of Houston, faced multiple allegations of illegal ballot harvesting and vote fraud, some of which involved actual officials connected with the Biden campaign.
Texas has been a prime target of left-wing operatives who regard it as a plum prize should its 38 electoral votes be up for grabs, potentially delivering permanent job security for Democrat presidential hopefuls.
Lawmakers dismissed the bumpy start, saying that it would take some time for voters to acclimate to the changes in the law, but that codifying election procedures ultimately would help ensure order.
Texas Secretary of State John Scott, the state’s chief election officer, has called the high rate of rejections a matter of voters not being familiar with the new rules and expressed confidence that the numbers will drop in future elections.
For now, the numbers do not represent how many Texas ballots were effectively thrown out. Voters had until Monday to “fix” rejected mail ballots, which in most cases meant providing identification that is now required under a law signed last fall by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
New requirements include listing an identification number—either a driver’s license or a Social Security number—on the ballot’s carrier envelope. That number must match the county’s records.
If a ballot is rejected, voters could add an ID number via an online ballot tracking system, go to the county’s election offices and fix the problem in person, or vote with a provisional ballot on election day.
County election officers say they worked feverishly to contact those voters in time, in many cases successfully, and a full and final tally of rejected ballots in Texas is expected to come into focus in the coming days.
But already, scores of potentially fraudulent mail ballots have been disqualified for good.
Along the Texas border, El Paso County reported that 725 mail ballots were officially rejected and not counted after a final canvass Monday—about 16% of all such ballots cast.
In the booming suburbs of Austin, Williamson County had a final number of 521 rejected ballots, nearly evenly split evenly between Republican and Democratic primary voters.
Roughly 8,300 mail ballots in Texas were rejected in the 2020 election, according to the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission.
Some rejected mail voters could have cast a ballot in person later. Antonio Riveria, El Paso County’s assistant elections administrator, said Wednesday that number is unknown in his office. But they typically reject significantly fewer mail ballots.
“It’s a lot less. Maybe 10,” he said.
At least 17 other states will also vote this year under new voting laws that sought to close loopholes that came to light during the pandemic.
Other new rules in Texas ban drive-thru voting and 24-hour polling centers and make it a felony for a government official to solicit mail ballots. In Texas, mail ballots are generally limited to people who are over the age of 65, have a disability or are out of the county.
The law also requires counties to publicly post a one-page “reconciliation report” of voters and ballots after each election as an extra measure of transparency. The report instructs counties to include the number of mail ballots and how many were flagged for rejection.
The AP obtained reports from 120 counties—nearly half of the 254 in Texas—through county websites and contacting all counties that had not posted a report publicly.
In Harris County, Texas’ largest county, officials said more than 11,000 mail ballots had been flagged for rejection as of March 2. But in the county’s preliminary report that is dated a day later, the number of rejected mail ballots was listed at 3,277.
On Tuesday, Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria said she was stepping down following a bungled vote count.
Houston Democrats have been among the most outspoken over Texas’ new voting laws, which they say are designed to weaken minority turnout. But Republican-leaning counties struggled with the new rules as well.
In Parker County, which former President Donald Trump carried by a 4-to-1 margin in 2020, the county reported 250 mail ballots as rejected or pending out of 1,100 mail votes—about 23%. Along the Texas coast in Nueces County, which Trump narrowly won, the rejection rate was 8%.
According to the county reports, in the five counties won by Trump that had the most mail-in voters, a combined 4,216 mailed ballots were rejected or still pending after the day of the election, a rate of 21% of the total.
In the counties won by Biden with the most mail-in voters, which include most of Texas’ biggest cities, a combined 11,190 votes were similarly rejected or pending, which amounted to 13%.
Kara Sands, the election administrator in Nueces County, said her office pressed voters to include more than one identification number as a guardrail against having their ballot rejected. But she said her office wasn’t inundated with voter frustration.
“We really didn’t get a lot of folks complaining about that,” she said.
Texas holds primary runoffs in May, and elections officials say their goal now is to educate voters to avoid a repeat next time.
Christopher Davis, the elections administrator in Williamson County, said the final rejection rate of 11.5% was “by far the highest we have ever seen” in the county of more than 600,000 people.
“The hope is we knock down that rejection rate,” he said.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press