Juneteenth coalition sounds alarm on mail-in ballot rejection spike under new Texas law

The rejection rate of mail-in ballots in Texas went from less than 2% to more than 12% under SB 1

A group of civil rights groups, elected officials and community organizations warned voters on Sunday about new state restrictions that have led to a major spike in rejected mail-in ballots across the state.

In a press conference at the Roseville Senior Apartment Complex Community Center on San Antonio’s East Side, the group said they are worried voters are being disenfranchised under the recently passed Senate Bill 1.

More than 12% of mail-in ballots — about 24,000 votes — were rejected in Texas under the new GOP voting rules during the March primary election, according to the Texas Tribune.

In Bexar County, nearly 2,000 mail-in ballots were rejected.

In the last midterm election, before the rules were changed, less than 2% of mail-in ballots were rejected, the Tribune reported

The group on Sunday said in some neighborhoods, including around the Roseville Apartments, rejection rates were as high as a third.

“I tried three times to request my mail ballot application with no success,” said 64-year-old JoAnn Cardenas in the press release. “After sending two applications, I was told neither of the applications were received. I triple-checked the application, and my provider double-checked it. We called the day before the election, and I was again told my ballot was not received.”

The new rules included a new application form, a requirement to sign in ink, a restriction on election administrators sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications, among others.

But the change that appeared to trip up voters and election officials the most was a new ID requirement on both the application and the ballot.

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said some voters missed a new, designated space under the envelope’s flap that’s surrounded by fine print.

Emma Guerrero, a 78-year-old mother of former San Antonio City Council member Debra Guerrero, said on Sunday the print was “too small to read.”

Another common mistake was that if a voter wrote their driver’s license on the mail ballot, but they they were registered to vote under their Social Security number, the ballot couldn’t be accepted.

At the event on Sunday, organizers “urged senior citizens, college students, voters with disabilities and others who need a ballot by mail to get their social security number and driver’s license number, and submit their application far in advance of the October 28 deadline,” according to a press release for the event.

They also urged voters to ensure that the return address for mail ballot applications is the Bexar County Elections Department, not the County Clerk.

In Texas, only a handful of groups are allowed to vote by mail, including people 65 and older, sick and disabled, out-of-state college students and members of the military stationed outside of their home county.

Referring to themselves as a Juneteenth Coalition, organizers planned a community event following the press conference to commemorate Juneteenth, a federal holiday that marks the end of slavery.

Groups and people involved in the Juneteenth Coalition include the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Bexar County Voting Rights Coalition, the Roseville Housing Trust and Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert, state Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, state Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, D-San Antonio, Congressman Henry Cuellar, Bexar County Clerk Lucy Adame-Clark and community activist Pharoah Clark.

The event included an exhibit from the County Clerk’s office observing the history of emancipation of African-Americans in Bexar County.


About the Authors:

Kolten Parker is digital executive producer at KSAT. Previously, he worked at the San Antonio Express-News and the Texas Observer.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.