A high number of mail-in ballots were rejected in the March primaries following the implementation of Texas Senate Bill 1, which is considered one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. In the lead-up to the General election, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum on Monday, Oct. 3 provided updates on what the county is doing to address these issues and shared information about what steps voters eligible to vote by mail can take to minimize the chances of their ballots not counting in November.
They also reminded voters that the registration deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 11, and encouraged voters to take advantage of Early Voting, which begins Monday, Oct. 24, to save time.
“Harris County is committed to ensuring that every eligible voter is able to freely and fairly cast a ballot,” Commissioner Ellis said. “We’re doing our part to fight voter suppression and remove obstacles where we can.”
More than 12% of mail-in ballots in Texas were rejected in the March primaries because of the burdensome changes to vote by mail, which voting rights advocates warned would unfairly disenfranchise elderly and disabled voters.
In Harris County, the numbers were even higher. The Elections Administrator’s Office reported that 19% of mail ballots were rejected due to SB 1 in the primaries compared with .3% in the 2018 primaries.
Harris County communities with large Black populations, like Precinct One, were 44% more likely to have mail ballots rejected, according to an analysis from the New York Times.
“This is unacceptable,” Commissioner Ellis said. “It’s un-American. Every voter has the right to vote free from burden, harm, or obstacle.”
Said Tatum: “Our office is doing everything it can to ensure all Harris County voters confidently participate in this coming election, whether it’s with a mail ballot, or in-person on the new voting machines.
From adding customer support specialists to our mail ballot team to hosting dozens of community events so that voters can learn about the process and practice on machines in demonstration mode, we’re meeting voters where they are to empower Harris County.”
The law requires that voters eligible to vote by mail provide either their Texas identification number such as a driver’s license or their Social Security number on their mail ballot application and ballot-carrier envelope when they send in their ballots. The number provided must match the voter record.
Guidance from the Secretary of State’s office and Harris County Elections Administrator’s Office states that voters eligible to vote by mail can write both ID numbers to minimize delays or rejections. It’s also recommended that eligible mail-in voters provide a phone number and email on their ballot application and ballot-return envelope so election workers can reach out to voters to quickly resolve any issues.
“The Elections Administrator’s Office is working round the clock to ensure elections are accessible and secure and that every voter can exercise their right to vote,” Commissioner Ellis said. “We want to make sure that voters who are eligible to vote by mail have the information they need.”
Voters eligible to vote by mail can contact the Voter Services Team at 713-755-6965 in the Harris County Elections Office to receive assistance throughout the process. Help is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese.