Mail-in ballots down by 40% in first election since Texas passed its restrictive new voting law

click to enlarge Under Texas' Republican-authored voting legislation, people who apply to vote by mail can have their applications rejected if they incorrectly remember which kind of ID number the state already has on file for them. - SANFORD NOWLIN
Sanford Nowlin
Under Texas' Republican-authored voting legislation, people who apply to vote by mail can have their applications rejected if they incorrectly remember which kind of ID number the state already has on file for them.
Texans' use of mail-in ballots during early voting has plunged in the wake of Texas' restrictive new voting law and months of unfounded claims from GOP politicians that voting by mail can't be trusted, the Express-News reports.

At the close of early voting for Tuesday's primary, Texas' 15 most-populous counties processed some 77,000 mail-in ballots, representing 0.7% of their registered voters, according to the daily's analysis. Those same counties tallied 126,000 mail-in ballots in early voting ahead of the 2018 midterms, accounting for 1.3% of voters.

The Express-News explained that it only ran the numbers for the state's most-populous counties because the Texas Secretary of State didn't provide statewide early voting totals for the 2018 contest.

Experts quoted by the paper attributed the drop in mail-in ballots to Texas' sweeping rewrite of its voting laws, Republican-backed Senate Bill 1, which added more ID requirements to vote by mail or even apply to do so. The state has offered no education campaign to make voters aware of the new ID rules.

Since SB 1's passage, elections administrators across the state have been forced to reject thousands of ballots and applications because voters supplied either their drivers license or social security number when the Secretary of State's office had the other ID number on file for them. Others forgot to add their ID information altogether.

Charlie Bonner, communications director for San Antonio-based voter mobilization group MOVE Texas, said elections administrators, lawyers and advocates warned lawmakers in testimony that the bill would suppress voters' access to mail-in voting.

"What we're seeing now is heartbreaking but not at all surprising," Bonner said. "This is what [Republican lawmakers] were after."

MOVE Texas recommends that voters requesting and using mail-in ballots in future elections write both their drivers license and social security numbers on the ballot to ensure that at least one matches what the state already has on file.

The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature passed SB 1 last year over the objections of Democratic lawmakers, who fled the session in bid to thwart its progress. Seizing on former President Donald Trump's repeatedly debunked claims of widespread voter fraud, Texas Republicans defended the measure, saying it was needed to protect "election integrity."

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