A group is trying to stop Texas from trashing thousands of mail-in ballots

by | Aug 8, 2019 | Voting

The need to protect the sacred right to vote continues in Texas. This time the threat is around mail-in ballots. 

The state throws out about 3,000 mail-in ballots during presidential elections because an untrained, random panel subjectively decides the ballots are no good. Thousands of discarded ballots could make a difference in the outcome of elections in the Lone Star State in 2020, if today’s polling holds up.

“The right to vote is a precious and fundamental political right that should not be arbitrarily taken away from eligible voters,” said Hani Mirza, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “The state’s current lack of rules for judging signatures of mail-in ballots and providing voters a chance to confirm they signed their ballot if it is questioned leads to the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters.”

TCRP brought the mail-in issue to light through a lawsuit filed this week.

Texas voters are able to mail in their ballots if they are out of town during an election, have a disability, are away at college, or are age 65 or older.  The ballots, according to TCRP, are verified by untrained administrators— not signature experts—who determine if the signatures are valid. Ballots are thrown out if signatures on the ballot envelope don’t match up with a prior signature on file. 

There is no appeal process for the voter, and rejected voters aren’t notified until after Election Day when it’s too late to fix the issue.

TCRP is suing the state to either stop the outright trashing of ballots or provide notice to voters of an issue with enough time to rectify it. Texas’ current mail-in ballot process, the suit argues, violates the equal protection and due process provisions of the Constitution.

Four polls on the 2020 presidential election, among other data, show Trump is struggling in the Lone Star State in a head-to-head matchup against former Vice President Joe Biden, and others. Key congressional races are competitive, meaning the outcomes could be close. 

Texas has a history of voter disenfranchisement and suppression. Earlier this year, the Secretary of State was forced to apologize for his campaign to purge tens of thousands of voters from the rolls. He was not subsequently confirmed by the Texas Senate to continue in the position.

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