‘We had a success story,’ Mail ballot rejections plummeted in May 7 election

Mail ballot rejection rate fell from 21.7% in Mar. 1 primary to 3% in May 7 joint election

After a rocky first election under new requirements for voting by mail, Bexar County Elections officials are celebrating a sharp decline in rejection of mail ballots.

San Antonio – After a rocky first election under new requirements for voting by mail, Bexar County Elections officials are celebrating a sharp decline in rejection of mail ballots.

Though more Bexar County voters voted by mail in the May 7 election than had in the Mar. 1 primary, the preliminary mail ballot rejection rate of 3% was far lower than the 21.7% that left thousands of ballots uncounted two months earlier.

READ MORE: More than 1,900 Bexar County mail ballots rejected, following new voting law requirement

Numerous voters in the Mar. 1 primary tripped over a new requirement to write either their state ID number or the last four digits of their social security number on their return envelope.

Some missed the section under the envelope flap completely. Others wrote down a number that wasn’t linked to their voter registration, writing their driver’s license number, for example, when they were registered under their social security.

Statewide, the Texas Tribune reported the rejection rate was roughly 12.4% statewide.

“Those numbers - it was a tragedy. It was personal. It was personal to us. Everything is personal to us,” said Elena Guajardo, a mail clerk for the Bexar County Elections Department.

Trying to avoid a repeat of the issues in the primary, Bexar County Elections officials highlighted the new requirement on the elections department website ahead of the May 7 election.

They also included an informational insert in every mail ballot, alerting voters to the new ID requirement and recommended writing both numbers, in case one of them wasn’t linked to their voter registration.

Their efforts appear to have paid off.

“We had a success story in this election,” said Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen, who previously said a typical election would “probably” have a 2% to 3% rejection rate.

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)
The Bexar County Elections Department included these inserts in mail ballots for the May 7 election, hoping to avoid the "tsunami" of rejections it had in the Mar. 1 joint primary.

The final mail ballot rejection rate was not yet available Friday afternoon. It would take into account mail ballots that arrived after election day and initially rejected ballots that voters were able to “cure” within six days of the election.

The Mar. 1 primary and May 7 joint elections were the first local elections held under the requirements of Senate Bill 1 - a controversial state voting law.

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

Steven Heinrich, a mail clerk with the elections department, said everything happened fast with the primary.

“We had no time and it was a brand new law. Early voting was already going on when we were getting new instructions on what we were supposed to do, you know, type of thing. So that was -- we had the time. We learned on March 1st. For May 7th, we had a little more time, and we were able to do things better and more timely,” Heinrich said.

Officials are hopeful the rejection rate will stay low for the May 24 primary run-off elections, for which mail ballot voting is already underway.


About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.