Travis County rejects 50% of mail-in ballot applications under new law, state responds

Man placing an envelop in the ballot box
About 50% of mail-in ballots have been rejected in Travis County under Texas' new voting law. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

About 50% of mail-in ballots have been rejected in Travis County under Texas' new voting law. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Updated Jan. 14 at 6:07 p.m.:

Secretary of State John Scott on Jan. 14 issued a statement directing Travis County to correct the rejected ballots.

"We were surprised to learn for the first time of the apparent wholesale rejection of mail ballot applications by Travis County. Our office's role to each county, including Travis County, is to be available to provide advice and assistance on implementation of Texas election law upon request," Scott said in the release. "Nevertheless, Travis County made the decision to reject these mail ballot applications before contacting our office. We call on Travis County to immediately review and re-examine the mail ballot applications in question to determine whether they were processed in accordance with state law, with the goal of reinstating and minimizing any disruption to eligible voters who have properly submitted their application for ballot by mail. We anxiously await the results of their re-processing of these mail ballot applications."

Travis County issued a followup press release stating the ballot application rejections were not final and that the clerk's office would have more information available at a Jan. 18 press conference.

On Jan. 14, it was announced that a mail-in ballot tracker launched on the Secretary of States website. The tracker can be used for applications or for the actual ballots themselves.

Original post Jan. 13:

On Jan. 13, the Travis County Clerk’s Office said it had rejected about 50% of mail-in ballot applications submitted for the March 1 primary elections.

The issue is connected to a new law that requires voters to write the last four digits of their Social Security or driver's license number on the ballot application, according to the release. The number provided by voters is then compared to the voter’s registration records, and the application is rejected if the numbers do not match, according to the press release.

The law, Senate Bill 1, was approved by the Texas Legislature in 2021 along with other voting measures, including expanding poll watchers’ access and restricting early-voting hours.

In an interview with Community Impact Newspaper, retiring county clerk Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir expressed concern that the new law could hamper voters looking to vote by mail because voters may not remember which ID they registered with if they registered a while ago or may have had to get a new license.

She said that mail-in voting has exploded in the county since the start of the pandemic.

“So many people who were over 65 never had taken advantage of the current law that said they could vote by mail. They’d just always gone to the precinct. Well, because of COVID[19], many of them said, ‘I don't want to go inside a polling place when we’ve got Stage 5 COVID with no vaccine,’” DeBeauvoir said.

In the press release, the clerk’s office said it does not yet have instructions on how voters can "cure" their applications—correct them so they can be counted—from the secretary of state’s office.