About a third of Harris County mail-in primary ballots were rejected. There’s still time to correct them

Voters still have six days to correct any flagged ballots, but must now do so in person.


Harris County election worker Romanique Tillman prepares mail-in ballots to be sent out to voters Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, in Houston.

Thousands of mail-in ballots in Harris County were flagged for rejection because of missing identification information required under Senate Bill 1, according to the county elections administrator.

Election Administrator Isabel Longoria’s office confirmed that 11,135 of the 38,508 mail-in ballots the county received for the Texas primary election had to be rejected due to identification issues as of Monday. That’s around 30% of the county’s mail-in ballots.

The primary is the first election under SB 1, which went into effect Jan. 25. The bill requires Texans voting by mail to include their driver’s license number or Social Security number on their mail-in ballot’s carrier envelope, whichever they used to register. Voters also have to include it on their mail-in ballot application, which was due Feb. 18 for the primaries.

Voters can still correct those flagged ballots. Longoria’s office said they’ve notified voters needing correction by mail, email or phone if they have the voter’s contact information. With current time constraints, there’s no guarantee a mailed-in correction will get counted. Instead, voters who didn’t include the correct information on their mail-in ballot should do so in person at Longoria’s office in downtown Houston inside the Harris County Administration Building.

Those voters have until six days after election day to get their ballot corrected and counted, another new provision under SB 1. Election officials won’t know for sure how many mail-in votes weren’t counted until after those six days for correction are up, leading to a possibility for delays.

Sam Taylor, the assistant secretary of state for communications, said the space to fill in personal ID information is in a secure location on the ballot envelope.

"It's really important that voters know that that information is secure," Taylor said. "It's behind a security flap that was a special design that had to be implemented in order to keep that personal information secure."

But Longoria said some voters aren’t seeing the spot to put their ID information on their ballot envelope: it’s in small font and under the envelope flap. Plus, voters already had to include their ID number on their mail-in ballot application, so voters might not realize it’s required on the ballot too.

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker said on Town Square with Ernie Manouse Tuesday that she and her family had trouble with their mail-in ballots. Parker said she and her mother were both tripped up by the ID number requirement on the carrier envelope.

“We were thinking because we regularly vote by mail, that we’re sophisticated voters, and we wouldn’t have any problems,” she said.

They ultimately corrected that issue. But Parker’s wife wasn’t so lucky: She was told her mail-in ballot was rejected. Then, when she went to vote in person, Parker said she was told she couldn’t vote because that ballot had already been received by the election administrator’s office.

Parker said she believed the new law would disenfranchise voters on both sides of the aisle.

“This is poorly written legislation,” she said. “I think it was deliberately designed to discourage people from voting by mail. And I think the Republicans thought this was going to take out marginalized voters, it was going to take out voters of color, but I think it’s also going to take out a whole bunch of senior citizens who , this is their normal way to vote and they tend to vote for the other side.”