Texas quickly shows the impact GOP voting restrictions can have

Well, in a very short space of time, the first state to hold a primary in 2022 – Texas – has now shown just how big an impact it can have.

The good news, insofar as there is any, is that this seems like a problem that could be largely solved in a relatively short time, if the will exists.

As The Washington Post reported ahead of the March 1 Texas primary, it has been evident for more than a month that the state has been experiencing very high levels of mail-in ballot rejections. And over the past week, we’ve learned a bunch of new details. At first it was data from a few counties. But now The Associated Press has analyzed the more or less statewide numbers – obtaining data from 187 out of 254 counties, representing 85% of all votes cast – and found some rather stark numbers.

How unusual is this number? It’s hard to compare it to other primaries because ballot rejection rates aren’t that readily available for primaries. But if you compare it to the general election, it becomes clear that this is a huge number. In the past three federal general elections, rejection rates for mail-in ballots have ranged from 0.8% to 1.4%.

Additionally, the highest absentee ballot rejection rate of any state in the 2020 election was 6.4% in Arkansas. The number in the Texas primary in 2022 was double.

The AP reports that only a few states compare to Texas’ rejection rate in any general election this century, according to data from the United States Election Assistance Commission: Indiana in 2006 (14.5 %), New York in 2018 (13.7%) and Oregon in 2010. (12.7 percent).

Now we come to how much such a thing could matter – beyond the people who thought they voted without having their votes counted, of course.

The first thing we can say is that, compared to many other states, mail-in ballots are just not as big a piece of the electoral puzzle in Texas. This is largely because it limits who can use them to people 65 and over, people with disabilities and a few other categories. Of more than 3 million votes in Texas’ Republican and Democratic primaries, less than 250,000 were cast by mail. If the 13% rejection rate remained constant across all 254 counties, that would mean about 31,000 votes would be rejected, or almost exactly 1% of all ballots.

What we can also say with a fairly high degree of certainty, however, is that it’s likely to hurt Democrats more, for several reasons.

The first is that the data generally showed higher rejection rates in larger, i.e., more urban and generally more democratic counties. The rejection rate in the state’s most populous county, Houston-based Harris County, was 19%. In San Antonio-based Bexar County, it rose to 22%. At the same time, it is not uniform. For example, Dallas County opted for President Biden by even more than Harris and Bexar (giving him 65%), and it had a significantly lower rejection rate of 6.5%.

So it was not initially clear that Democratic regions had higher rejection rates overall. But now it is.

In total, AP reports that the five counties with the highest numbers of absentee voters who opted for President Donald Trump in 2020 had a rejection rate of 10%, while the five who opted for President Biden had a rejection rate of rejection of 15.7%.

So if mail-in ballots are being discarded at a higher rate overall, it stands to reason that it costs Democrats more. Add to that the higher rejection rates in major Democratic counties, and it seems entirely likely that’s what’s happening.

At least to some extent. In Harris County, for example, Republican mail-in ballots were actually rejected at higher rates than Democrats — 20.4% to 17.7%. And it is possible that this is the case in other counties. But the higher overall Democratic mail-in voting rate is key again. Even in Harris, with its slightly higher rejection rate for Republican mail-in ballots, the higher use of mail-in ballots by Democrats meant that 2.2% of all their votes were ballots. by correspondence rejected, against 1.6% for the Republicans.

The question from there is whether this will be a persistent problem in the future — and, particularly if you’re a Democrat, how much it might hurt your side in Republican versus Democrat elections. The good news is that these rates should come down, at least to some extent.

The reason: In many of these places, the main problem was not only that people did not meet the identification requirements; it was people provide no credentials at all. The Texas Tribune reported last week that this accounted for most rejected ballots in Dallas County, for example. And a spokesperson for the Texas secretary of state told the Washington Post that this was also true across the state, suggesting it may have been largely poor design and a lack of adequate voter education.

“All of these voters successfully received a mail-in ballot using the credentials for the application, which means that for the most part the rejections are due to the voter simply forgetting to include the information. identification on the carrier’s envelope,” Taylor said. “We are considering a design fix to ensure this section is highlighted in some way, and also better voter education through our ad campaign.”

Time will tell how well the problem is resolved. But if there’s one thing the results in Texas reinforce, it’s that these kinds of restrictions can cause many qualified voters to have their votes not counted.

Amy Gardner contributed to this report.


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