If anyone wants a preview of how voter suppression tactics will disrupt our elections going forward, Texas just gave the country a prime example.
Primary elections were just held in the Lone Star state and an analysis conducted by the Associated Press reveals that an abnormally high rate of mail ballots were rejected under tougher voting rules instituted by Republicans.
Almost 23,000 mail ballots were thrown out, which is about 13% of ballots returned across 187 counties in Texas. Experts say anything above a 2% rejection rate in a general election is cause for concern. Rejection rates were far higher in counties that lean Democratic (15.1%) than Republican (9.1%).
A majority of the rejected ballots failed to meet strict new identification requirements that were instituted when Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed into law last October a proposal that voting rights advocates warned would disenfranchise voters by also removing drive-thru voting locations and limiting voting hours. The requirement that seems to be causing the most confusion involves listing an identification number — either a driver’s license or a Social Security number — on the ballot’s carrier envelope.
There is also a new voter ID requirement for absentee voters that has resulted in confusion and people being unable to cast their ballot despite Abbott saying that “no one who is eligible to vote will be denied the opportunity to vote.”
Voter suppression efforts by Republicans are part of a coordinated effort across the country to tilt the electoral map in their favor. At least 17 other states will soon hold elections under tougher voting laws, most of those driven by Trump’s unhinged conspiracy theories of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. In Florida for example, Republicans in the state legislature passed a bill in 2021 that added new restrictions to the state’s ballot drop boxes and vote-by-mail system and another bill in 2022 that establishes a new elections crimes investigative office that will surely serve as a partisan agency for Governor Ron DeSantis.
In the last midterm elections that Texas held during the 2018 cycle, the Democratic stronghold of Houston in Harris County rejected only 135 mail ballots. In this election, nearly 7,000 mail ballots— about 19% — were discarded. Election officials said they received over 8,000 calls from confused voters that shared their “frustration” over the new voting requirements instituted by Republicans.
Republicans claimed their voter suppression legislation would make voting easier and “more secure”. The evidence now shows how right were the voting rights advocates who warned that these restrictive bills targeting our access to the ballot were dangerous for our democratic process. One out of eight mail ballots in Texas were thrown out for the primary election.
There’s no excuse for such a high rate of ballots being thrown out. It’s voter suppression plain and simple. In a healthy democracy, we strive to make it easier for people to vote, not harder. Republican legislatures across the country are doing the opposite, and what’s most egregious about it is that they cynically use Trump’s lies about election fraud as an excuse.
Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He tweets from @tomaskenn.
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is a reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.