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Texas early voting begins under strict election law rollout

Texas early voting begins under strict election law rollout
Hundreds of mail-in ballots rejected as voters juggle newly implemented rules ahead of nation’s first primary

A coalition of Texas civil rights groups has issued a damning statement to the Texas secretary of state as early voting begins in 2022’s first primary election, with voters heading to the polls under newly implemented restrictions on voting and the returns of hundreds of mail ballots.

Implementing the law – the subject of a lawsuit from the US Department of Justice – has forced voters and election officials to juggle errors, delays and confusion as they navigate the new rules, which have led to the initial rejections of hundreds of mail-in ballots.

På 14 februar, early voting begins ahead of 1 March primary elections for party nominees for statewide seats and congressional and legislative offices.

Days before the first votes were cast, election officials in Harris County – one of the largest counties in the nation – announced that 40 per cent of all mail ballots received so far had already been sent back for failing to meet newly imposed rules for identification and signatures under the new law.

The groups are “alarmed at a series of recent high profile failures” that “have threatened Texans’ access to the ballot box during the 2022 primaries,” they wrote in a letter on Monday.

“These problems come after many years of growing public mistrust in the impartiality and fairness of your Office, and have triggered a crisis of confidence specifically in your ability to serve as Texas’ Chief Elections Officer,” the groups wrote.

“It is your responsibility as Secretary of State to make sure that this year’s primary runs smoothly, and if you do not take immediate action to restore trust in your Office and stop this pattern of repeated failures, you risk permanently losing the trust of Texans in your ability to faithfully and impartially administer elections,”La de til.

The groups accused the secretary of state, John Scott, whose office administers elections, of failing to properly implement and guide voters through sweeping new rules imposed by Republican legislators in 2021, from voter ID requirements to a mail-in ballot tracker website and securing enough paper to print voter registration forms.

I januar, the League of Women Voters requested thousands of voter registration applications for new US citizens, which the state said it could not supply because of supply chain issues, despite the new law also requiring that they be updated and reprinted.

“This was a seismic blunder that threatened many thousands of eligible voters, and which you worked to fix only after a massive public outcry,” the groups said.

Voters whose ballots have been returned will have a chance to correct them if they are submitted to election offices by Election Day.

The state is among at least 18 states holding 2022 elections with new restrictions on voting, fuelled by a “stolen election” narrative from former president Donald Trump that has undermined voter confidence and the electoral process, served as a pretext for threats to voting rights, and contributed to a flood of conspiracy theories feeding into public debate about election security.

Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who signed the elections bill into law, is favoured to win the GOP primary, after which he is expected to face likely Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke in the general election.

Democratic US Rep Henry Cuellar, recently subject of an investigation from the FBI, will face progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros for control of a south Texas district extending from San Antonio to the US-Mexico border.

New York Democratic US Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently campaigned in the state for Ms Cisneros as well as progressive congressional candidate Greg Casar, vying to represent a largely urban and Latino district spanning parts of San Antonio and Austin.