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Albert Wise, who is disabled, never got his mail-in ballot. It took Houston-area retiree Pam Gaskin three attempts to get hers. And 95-year-old World War II veteran Kenneth Thompson had to resubmit his voter registration to finally vote by mail.
Texas voters like these have had to navigate a rocky path in recent weeks just to get their hands on mail-in ballots as the state’s new election law kicked in, sparking widespread confusion and frustration.
The next test of the new law comes today with Election Day in the Lone Star State. While voting by mail and early in-person voting began weeks ago, Tuesday marks the final day to cast ballots in the nation’s second most populous state.
At stake: nominating contests for governor and a slew of statewide, congressional and legislative seats.
Voting rights activists are worried by what they have seen so far.
“It’s been a very confusing election with this massive new election law,” Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters Texas, recently told Kelly. “We had so many problems with vote-by-mail that we’re very concerned about the impact of the election law on older voters and voters with disabilities.”
Most of the problems center on Texas’ new ID requirements for mail-in ballots, a method of voting used by nearly 1 million of the state’s voters in 2020. (Only a slice of Texans qualify to vote by mail: They include those 65 and older, those who are ill or disabled, and voters who will be out of their home county on Election Day or during early in-person voting.)
The new law, known as Senate Bill 1, requires voters include either their Texas identification number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on their applications to receive mail-in ballots. Voters also must submit that information again when returning their ballots. The numbers must match the information on file at their local election office to count.
In Harris County, the state’s most populous county and home to Houston, officials continue to grapple with voter confusion over the new law’s identification requirements. As of late last week, about 30% of the mail-in ballots already processed by county election officials — or nearly 8,500 ballots – had been flagged as faulty. In most cases, the returned ballots were missing identification, said Leah Shah, a spokeswoman for the county election office.
By contrast, fewer than 1% of mail-in ballots – or about 8,300 ballots statewide – were rejected in the 2020 election, according to the US Election Assistance Commission. (That statewide rejection figure from 2020 is a smaller number than the ballots flagged so far this year for possible rejection in a single county.)
Meanwhile, in Travis County – home to the state capital, Austin – about 12% of the reviewed ballots had been flagged as defective as of Monday, according to Victoria Hinojosa, a spokeswoman in the election office.
Only about 2% of Travis County’s ballots were rejected in 2018, she said.
Hinojosa and officials in other counties say this year’s rejection rates could fall from their current highs as election workers scramble to reach voters and encourage them to fix their ballots before the deadline.
But this is all new territory for election officials.
“This number is a big number for any year and any election,” Shah, of Harris County, said of the faulty ballots.
Races to watch
Texas voters will pick party nominees for governor, attorney general and a host of other state, congressional, legislative and local government seats.
At the state level, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott seeks a third term and faces challenges on the right from former state Sen. Don Huffines and former GOP Texas Chair Allen West.
Meanwhile, incumbent GOP Attorney General Ken Paxton faces a tough primary that includes challenges from US Rep. Louie Gohmert, former Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and (the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the grandson and nephew of US presidents). As our colleague Gregory Krieg notes, this heated race could head to a runoff.
(Under Texas law, candidates need to win more than 50% of the vote in order to avoid a runoff. The runoff election, if needed, would take place May 24.)
Also on the radar of politicos from South Texas to the nation’s capital: a Democratic primary rematch between Rep. Henry Cuellar and progressive Jessica Cisneros, who nearly beat Cuellar two years ago.
And an FBI search earlier this year of Cuellar’s Laredo home and the building that houses his campaign office certainly complicated matters for the veteran Democrat, CNN’s Eric Bradner and Rachel Janfaza note.
How to vote
Polls opened today at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. local time. (Most of Texas is on Central Time, with the exception of its westernmost corner in the El Paso area, which is on Mountain Time.)
Voters need to show photo ID, such as a driver’s license, US passport or Texas handgun license, to vote in person today.
Those without photo ID – and who declare that they have a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining the needed identification – can submit supporting forms of identification, such as a current utility bill, a paycheck, or a bank statement.
A complete list of ID requirements can be found here.
Live in Texas and need to find your polling place? Check out the Voter Portal from the Texas Secretary of State. (It’s not exactly intuitive. You’ll need to log in through the “Am I Registered?” section of the portal to pull up your precinct information.)
You need to read
- A deep dive by CNN’s Maeve Reston and Nicole Chavez on the fight by Democrats to win back Latino voters in Texas who backed Donald Trump and Republicans in 2020.
- This sweeping illustrated timeline written by CNN’s Brandon Tensley of America’s long history of resisting multiracial democracy. (You can sign up for his terrific Race Deconstructed newsletter here.)
- A summary by CNN’s Shania Shelton of all the statewide, down-ballot races in Texas.
- A look by The New York Times’ Shane Goldmacher on how redistricting is wiping out competitive congressional districts and deepening our country’s partisan divide. He illustrates the story by zeroing in on a district in … You guessed it! Texas.
Yes, we know, we’re pretty heavy on Texas developments in this newsletter, but if you want to skip ahead, CNN’s Deputy Political Editor Terence Burlij, along with Melissa Holzberg DePalo and Ethan Cohen, have a full roadmap to the entire midterm election and what’s at stake here.