Changes required by the state’s new election law have caused hundreds of mail-in ballot applications across the state to be rejected. One county clerk is accusing the state of deliberately causing confusion among voters, just 11 days before the deadline to register to vote for the March primaries.
A change under Senate Bill 1 requires voters who are applying for mail-in ballot applications to remember whether they used their driver license number or their social security number the very first time they registered to vote in Texas.
Dana DeBeauvoir is the Travis County clerk. She told Texas Standard this requirement can cause a guessing game for people who registered to vote decades ago. DeBeauvoir says her office is also no longer allowed to call or text voters to tell them that their application was rejected. She must send a notice by mail.
“We can’t really have that one-on-one conversation with voters anymore, because that’s perceived as promoting by-mail voting,” DeBeauvoir said. “And I’m not allowed to do that anymore. None of the election officials are allowed to do that any longer.”
DeBeauvoir suggests voters write both their driver license or state ID number, and their social security number on their vote-by-mail application to “hedge their bets.”
At a news conference this week, DeBeauvoir explained why mail-in ballot applications were being rejected by her office, her frustration with the requirements of SB 1, and with the online vote-by-mail tracker created by the Texas Secretary of State’s Office.
She says voter data for many counties, including Travis, hasn’t been loaded into the state’s tracker. She says she doesn’t know if state officials intended to limit the availability of information, or simply ran behind schedule. But she does claim the nonworking website is causing confusion.
“The mixed message is, deliberate confusion for voters,” she said.
DeBeauvoir also says it’s difficult to call and ask questions of the Secretary of State’s Office.
“You can’t get through to the Secretary of State’s Office because the lines are all overwhelmed,” she said. “Because for years, that office has been underfunded.”
The deadline to register to vote in the state’s March 1 primaries is January 31. The deadline to request a ballot-by-mail for the primary is February 18. DeBeauvoir says voters running into voting issues should contact their chosen political party – which run primary elections – for help.
“Don’t just give up and not vote,” DeBeauvoir said.