Texas held the first 2022 primary election in the nation under the additional stress of a new, massive election bill, Senate Bill 1, which created even more challenges for voters in Texas.
During the 2020 General Election, Texans all over the state benefited from more voting opportunities, such as expansion of early voting, extended hours at the polling places, and more options to return vote-by-mail ballots.
However, as we all expected, the new election law caused heart-breaking confusion among voters in the 2022 primary elections. Most notably, the new ID number requirements that needed to be added in Ballot by Mail applications and ballot carrier envelopes complicated voting. These new requirements hit older voters and voters with disabilities particularly hard. While we don’t have the final results on how many ballots were able to be cured, we do know that an extraordinary percentage of vote-by-mail ballots were rejected. But election officials were not allowed to promote or even educate voters about the new Ballot by Mail processes under threats of criminal prosecution.
Election officials were also overwhelmed with the major changes to the election laws. The Secretary of State’s office, which had the Herculean task of carrying out the massive updates to the Election Code, was late in providing updates to its website, in training county election officials and in sharing advisories to county election officials on these major changes. Voter education and voting access were the casualties of the draconian change in election law and severe delay in useful education.
In addition to new voting requirements, the new election law also made election officials subject to new criminal penalties and provided more authority to partisan poll watchers. “Voters reported unplanned closures of polling sites due to lack of election workers. Not surprisingly, the new privileges given to partisan poll watchers intensified the pressure on poll workers and voters at the polls.
Our primary election did not need to be difficult for voters. The League of Women Voters of Texas and our voting rights partners warned the Texas Legislature that SB1 would have negative consequences for voter access in our state. Because of this new election law, too many voters were silenced during our primary elections. It is critical that the Secretary of State collaborate with counties well before the November General Election to address the obstacles voters faced in the primaries. The League of Women Voters of Texas will continue to support voter education and provide useful information to encourage voters to participate in our elections.
Ensuring a safe and secure election while providing voters with the information they need to participate fully in our democracy should be a priority for the Texas Legislature, the Texas Secretary of State and county election officials. We call upon the Office of the Texas Secretary of State and county election officials to work together to improve democracy for all Texas voters.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Grace Chimene, president of The League of Women Voters of Texas. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Chimene can be reached by email via: [email protected].
Editor’s Note: The League of Women Voters is one of America’s oldest and most trusted civic nonprofit organizations. Formed in 1919, the Texas League represents more than 13,500 grassroots advocates and 34 local Leagues across the state. The League never supports or opposes candidates for office or political parties. The League encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government. The League also seeks to influence public policy through education and advocacy. Membership is open to people 16 years and older.
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