Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir labels issues stemming from new Texas election law 'voter suppression,' state responds

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir labels issues stemming from new Texas election law 'voter suppression.' (Darcy Sprague/Community Impact Newspaper)
Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir labels issues stemming from new Texas election law 'voter suppression.' (Darcy Sprague/Community Impact Newspaper)

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir labels issues stemming from new Texas election law 'voter suppression.' (Darcy Sprague/Community Impact Newspaper)

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The clerk's office posted the new and old ballot applications for the Jan. 18 press conference. (Darcy Sprague/Community Impact Newspaper)

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir held a press conference Jan. 18 to address issues with mail-in ballot applications and call out what she sees as voter suppression from the Texas Secretary of State John Scott’s office and the Texas Legislature.

DeBeauvoir said her office may only have to reject 27% of mail-in ballot applications submitted for the March primary election so far—down from the previous estimate of 50%. However, she said the number is still significantly higher than a normal election.

The applications were rejected under Senate Bill 1, passed in 2021, according to DeBeauvoir. The two main issues are voters using the wrong applications and voters using the wrong identification numbers, DeBeauvoir said.

Voters must use newly designed applications, which is an issue if voting advocacy groups and political parties might have stockpiled old applications. She said a paper shortage also means it is difficult to get the applications out. Voters must also provide either their driver's licenses or Social Security number, and it must match the number they used to register to vote.

“The voter is playing a guessing game with this ... trying to remember the number that they signed up with at the voter registration office. However, 10, 20, 30 years ago, what number did I use for the voter registration database? Was it my driver's license number? Did I use my Social Security number? Do you remember what you signed up with? I didn't; I had to go back and look it up. Voters are going to be playing the same guessing game; they don't remember,” DeBeauvoir said.



She said the county has rejected 509 of the 1,914 applications.

“First, our office actually spoke with Travis County on Thursday evening after proactively reaching out to their staff and advised them on the proper ballot by mail application process—which is why, per the Travis County clerk’s own admission in her press conference—their rejection rate was revised from 50% down to 27% after speaking with us and receiving proper guidance. We will continue to work with Travis County and all counties to provide guidance on the procedure for processing applications for ballot by mail,” the secretary of state’s office wrote in a statement.

Correcting the applications

On Jan. 14, following DeBeauvoir’s announcement that the county might have to reject 50% of applications, the secretary of state’s office released a statement instructing the county to address rejection rates. Later that day, the office announced a mail-in application and ballot tracker.

DeBeauvoir said the state’s ballot tracker does not yet have Travis County data, making the state’s suggested remedy impossible.

The secretary of state’s office held a webinar Jan. 18 for election officials, but DeBeauvoir said the information did not answer many of her questions. The state will hold a second webinar Jan. 20, which DeBeauvoir said she hopes will address the issues.

Other Senate Bill 1 issues

DeBeauvoir also addressed other issues stemming from Senate Bill 1, which Gov. Greg Abbott and the legislators say enhances election safety and integrity.

Among the issues, DeBeauvoir said a broad stipulation that prevents election officials from promoting vote by mail. The rule has been interpreted to mean she cannot provide voters detailed instruction about how to address the new mail-in applications and ballot requirements.

“My friends, this is what voter suppression looks like,” DeBeauvoir said.

By Darcy Sprague

Editor, Central and Southwest Austin

Darcy joined Community Impact Newspaper in Aug. 2021. Previously, she has covered local news from San Antonio to Dallas and reported nationally on education. Darcy graduated from Texas State University.