TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas — In a press conference held Tuesday morning, the Travis County Clerk's Office said that it has rejected about 27% of applications for mail-in ballots due to Senate Bill 1 (SB1), the state's sweeping voting law passed last year.
The clerk's office said the applications it has been rejecting have been for the March 1 primary elections.
The new law, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in September, requires that applications for mail-in ballots include the applicant's driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security Number. The number provided is then verified against the applicant's voter registration record and if the number does not match the file, then the law requires the application to be rejected.
"Voters are going to be playing the same guessing game, they don't remember. So how do we advise them? So far, we have not received instructions from the Secretary of State's Office to tell voters how to go," said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir.
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The clerk's office said it has not received enough information regarding the new online cure process to instruct voters how to cure their applications with the Texas Secretary of State's Office. The office added that is has not received instructions from the State outlining what the office can do to help voters submit a completed application, but is expecting "more comprehensive guidance" from the secretary of state.
The Texas Secretary of State sent a statement reading in part, "Our office actually spoke with Travis County on Thursday evening (we reached out to them proactively) 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."
Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir held a news conference on Jan. 18 to discuss details of the application rejections. Watch that here:
Senate Bill 1 was passed during the second special session of the Texas Legislature in 2021. In addition to the new requirements on mail-in voting application, the law bans drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting, creates a criminal penalty for elections officials who send unsolicited mail-in ballot applications and more.
The U.S. Department of Justice initiated a lawsuit against the state over SB1 back in November, citing the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. More recently, in late December, a Harris County elections administrator and Austin-area voter registrar asked a federal judge to block the SB1 provision prohibiting elections officials from sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications.
Under Senate Bill 1, when people are applying for mail-in ballots, they have to include either their state-issued driver’s license, state-issued ID number, election identification certificate number from DPS (not the voter registration number), last four digits of their social security number or check a box saying they don’t have any of the above.
When the law was first written, people were going to have to put the same form of ID number that they used when they registered to vote. Democrats argued that voters were unlikely to remember the exact same number, so there was an amendment to allow the other forms of ID numbers. However, county clerks don’t always have all those numbers for people. They just have what’s on your voter registration application, hence the apparent hiccup with Travis County and many other counties across the state.
Now, the identification number the voter puts on an application for a mail-in ballot does have to match what’s on the original registration application. However, the clerk is allowed to – and must – give people notice if the numbers don’t match and tell them how they can correct it online. To help ensure you've done it right, include both that ID number and your Social Security number on your mail-in ballot application.
To check on the status of your vote by mail application, you can check online here.
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