Bexar County elections officials try to prevent another ‘tsunami’ of mail ballot rejections

March primary elections had 21.7% rejection rate for mail ballots under new SB 1 rules

As early voting in the May 7 election gets underway, Bexar County elections officials are taking steps to ensure they don’t have a repeat of the March 1 Primary elections in which nearly 22% of mail ballots were ultimately rejected.

SAN ANTONIO – As early voting in the May 7 election gets underway, Bexar County elections officials are taking steps to ensure they don’t have a repeat of the March 1 Primary elections in which nearly 22% of mail ballots were ultimately rejected.

This time around, every mail ballot is sent out with an informational insert reminding the voter about a new, ID number requirement that tripped up many people in the primary. That election was the first to be conducted under the requirements of the controversial state voting law, Senate Bill 1.

SB 1 requires voters to write an ID number associated with their registration on the outside of their mail ballot’s carrier envelope in a spot covered by the flap. Many either missed that requirement entirely, or wrote down the wrong number - writing in their driver’s license number, for example, when their registration was under their Social Security Number.

“It was like a tsunami,” Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen said of the rejected ballots.

READ MORE: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs contentious voting measure SB 1 into law Tuesday

Voters submitting a ballot by mail had to list either their state ID number or last four digits of their social security number in the area circled in red. The area is covered when the envelope flap is closed. (KSAT)

Voters had the six days following the election to “cure” issues with their mail ballots, but 3,940 still ended up being rejected, out of the 18,120 Bexar County election officials received - a 21.7% rejection rate.

Callanen said previous elections typically had a 2-3% rejection rate.

“It’s tough. That’s not who we are. That’s - I mean, we’re here to facilitate this and get every voter,” she said.

The Bexar County Elections Department is now including an insert in every mail ballot it sends out, Callanen said, reminding voters to include the required ID numbers - preferably both of them.

“We’re asking for both numbers because then we stand a better chance, depending on which one we have on file,” Callanen said.

The Bexar County Elections Department is including these inserts in mail ballots, hoping to avoid the "tsunami" of rejections it had in the Mar. 1 joint primary.

The elections department website also includes detailed information on the changes to the mail ballots at the top of its main page.

Callanen is aiming for a rejection rate under 5% for the May 7 elections and says, so far, things are looking better.

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About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.