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Harris County leaders remind voters of state ID requirements for casting mail ballots

Houston Chronicle 10/3/2022 Yilun Cheng
© Photo Credit: Travis County Democratic Party

Harris County officials on Monday urged residents to follow the correct mail voting guidance as the end-of-the-month deadline to apply for mail-in ballots for the 2022 midterm elections nears. 

 

This year’s primary elections in March experienced a surge in mail ballot rejections due to voter confusion over new requirements passed under Senate Bill 1. The new law requires residents to provide their Texas drivers license number or Social Security number when applying for a mail ballot and on the envelope containing their completed ballot. The number must match the number associated with their voter registration. 

The Texas Secretary of State earlier this year said voters could put both numbers on their ballots and applications to avoid having them rejected.

Across the state, more than 12 percent of all mail ballots – nearly 25,000 – were rejected during the primaries. The rate was six times what it was in the 2018 midterm election. In Harris County, the rejection rate reached 40 percent initially before falling to 19 percent.  

 

Areas with sizable Black populations were 44 percent more likely to see their ballots rejected than heavily white areas, according to a New York Times analysis based on data by the Harris County election administrator’s office. 

Ballot rejection numbers were driven down by the time of the primary runoffs after election officials in some counties included additional instructions about identification requirements with voters' mail ballots. 

 

“This is unacceptable. It’s un-American,” Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis said at a Monday press conference. “Every voter has the right to vote free from burden, harm, or obstacle. Harris County is committed to ensuring that every eligible voter is able to freely and fairly cast their ballot. We’re doing our part to fight voter suppression and remove obstacles where we can.” 

 

Since the primaries, the Elections Administration Office has implemented new measures to ensure a smoother voter experience for the midterms, according to Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum. That includes the addition of customer support specialists to assist mail-in voters and dozens of community events to raise awareness of proper voting procedures, Tatum said. 

  

The county has set up 99 centers for early voting, according to Tatum, which begins October 24 and run through November 4. Eligible voters must apply for a mail ballot by October 28. 

On Election Day – November 8 – there will be 782 polling locations in Harris County, Tatum said. Staff also in the process of training about 6,000 election workers, including 1,600 election judges, he said. 

“We are working with the elections task force to ensure that security is what it needs to be during the early voting process and for Election Day,” Tatum said. “But we also encourage our voters to understand what their rights are, what their responsibilities are as it relates to casting a ballot, arming themselves with the right information.” 

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