According to an Associated Press analysis, the news isn’t great. For the March 1 primary, the state rejected almost 23,000 mail-in ballots, or close to 13 percent of all mail-in ballots returned — far higher than the 2 percent rate that would usually raise the concern of election experts, per the AP. And the rate of rejection was higher in blue-leaning counties (15.1 percent) than in Republican ones (9.1 percent), reflecting the recent trend of Democratic voters preferring to mail in their ballots more than Republicans do. Harris County, which encompasses Houston, saw 7,000 mail-in ballots rejected, compared to just 135 in the previous midterm.
According to state and county election officials, the majority of ballots discarded were thrown out because they did not meet identification requirements enacted by the state last year as part of S.B. 1, a sweeping voter-suppression bill. Its supposed rationale was to prevent fraud — for which there was no widespread evidence in the 2020 election. The law requires mail-in voters to list either their driver’s license or Social Security number on the envelope that matches the ID number they provided when applying for a mail-in ballot — a measure that introduces a high chance of human error. Texas also banned polling places from staying open for 24 hours on Election Day, closed drive-through voting, and made it illegal for election officials to send a mail-in-ballot application to anyone who doesn’t request one.
In November, the Justice Department sued the state, claiming S.B. 1 violates the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the federal lawsuit wasn’t filed in time to matter in the primary. At least 17 more states have implemented similar or even more restrictive voter-suppression laws. Once more primaries take place, we’ll know more about how these new rules could affect turnout. But so far, the GOP’s efforts are bearing fruit.