The midterm election season kicked off Tuesday in Texas — with election workers, voters and voting rights activists reporting several glitches, including poll worker shortages, as Texans cast their ballots in person.
But election officials in the Lone Star State say the biggest challenge still looms: The scramble to fix the higher-than-usual number of mail-in ballots flagged for potential rejection under the state’s restrictive new voting law.
Officials in Harris County — home to Houston — had flagged as faulty nearly 30% of the more than 38,000 mail-in ballots received as of Monday because voters did not include identifying information on the return envelope, the county’s election chief Isabel Longoria told reporters Tuesday morning.
That means voters likely will cast more provisional ballots than typical on Election Day, she added.
Tuesday marks the first primaries of year. In Texas, the results will determine general election matchups for governor and a slew of statewide and legislative offices. If no candidate achieves more than 50% support, a runoff election is slated for May.
Tuesday also marks the first test of a new voting law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature last year. The law imposes new ID requirements to vote by mail, empowers partisan poll watchers and bans practices used by Harris County in 2020, such as 24-hour and drive-thru voting.
Texans who qualify to vote by mail felt the first consequences of the new law. It requires them to include identification numbers both when applying for a mail-in ballot and again on the inside flap of the envelope they use to return the ballot — a process that tripped up many in recent weeks.
Those problems surfaced again at polling places on Tuesday.
Joseph Egbon said he voted in person Tuesday because election officials rejected his mail-in ballot a few days ago.
“It was just last week they sent me the letter,” Egbon told CNN. “I didn’t want to argue so I said, ‘Let me just go ahead'” and vote in person.
Egbon said it was relatively easy to do so. It took just 15 minutes him to vote at the Bayland Park Community Center in southwestern Houston.
Only a subset of Texas voters are eligible to cast ballots by mail. They include those 65 and older, people who will be out of the county and voters who are disabled or ill.
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