Judge Hidalgo responds to rise in rejected mail-in ballot applications, calls for Federal Voting Rights Legislation

The Texas Secretary of State responds to concerns

HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo responded to the rise in the number of rejected mail-in ballot applications Wednesday and called for a Federal Voting Rights Legislation.

Hidalgo joins other democratic leaders, including Mayor Sylvester Turner, who is currently in Washington D.C. attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where he is also calling for a Federal Voting Rights Legislation.

“We recognize that as mayors, we represent everyone in our cities, and we recognize the bedrock of democracy is the sacred right to vote,” said Turner. “We can talk about infrastructure, homelessness, public safety, and the economy, but the fundamental right to vote is at the heart of all those issues. This is the moment, and this is the time, and I ask the U.S. Senate to protect voting rights.”

During Wednesday’s news conference, Hidalgo blamed the Texas voting bill, SB 1, for the recent increase in rejected mail-in ballots.

“What we are seeing in Texas should be a warning sign, a call to action, and a wake-up call to those in Washington who say they support free elections,” she said.

According to Hidalgo, Harris County is flagging 35% of mail-in ballot applications, which percentage-wise, is seven times the amount of flagged ballots than before or during a similar midterm cycle.

She said, if the numbers hold and the county sees the same number of mail-in ballots that were seen in the last midterm election in 2018, the county would end up rejecting, or flagging for rejection, 27,500 applications.

“That is more than enough potential voters to sway the outcome of an election, and I think the folks that passed those laws at the state level, and who are defending them, know that is the case,” Hidalgo said.

To control the number of rejections, Hidalgo said the county is fighting in the courts, fighting to expand voting locations and hours, printing mail-in ballot locations to provide them to registration groups who are not receiving them from the state, and helping people correct their mail-in ballots so they are not rejected.

“Senate Bill 1 intended to make it harder to vote, and we will not let that happen,” Hidalgo said.

The Texas Secretary of state said he has heard from some counties that people are submitting old forms and admits there’s a bit of a learning curve.

“I don’t know where the argument that that’s where voter suppression would stem from. I think it’s a new system, and I think it’s going to take voters a while to get used to it,” John Scott, (R) Tx. Sec. of State said. Scott suggested voters provide both pieces of critical information just to play it safe.

The top three reasons mail-in ballots are getting flagged:

  • Not including a social security number
  • A lot of mail-in ballots are coming from campaigns and people don’t feel comfortable mailing sensitive information
  • Not providing correct information that was used when registering to vote like the correct driver’s license number or social security number
  • People are submitting old forms when the new forms have changed

Tips on how you can make sure your mail-in ballot isn’t rejected:

  • If submitting a mail-in ballot, make sure to fill out the contact information so the elections committee office can contact you.
  • File for your voter’s registration card early. Also, request for a mail-in ballot early. The deadline for mail-in ballot requests is Feb. 18.
  • Lastly, don’t be discouraged.

Voters should also remember that the county will no longer provide drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting.

Anyone with questions about voter registration cards or mail-in ballots can call the elections committee office at 713-755-6965.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo responded to the rise in the number of rejected mail-in ballot applications Wednesday and called for a Federal Voting Rights Legislation.

About the Authors:

Award-winning journalist, mother, YouTuber, social media guru, millennial, mentor, storyteller, University of Houston alumna and Houston-native.