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Texas

There are several issue areas in which Texas has opportunities to improve voter access. These improvements will bring Texas one step closer to a more safe, efficient, and voter-friendly election process. As always, while policies are important, effective implementation is just as important.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

By passing legislation to allow voters to vote by mail ballot without needing an excuse, Texas can give their citizens the opportunity to vote in whichever manner they find safest and most convenient. Additionally, an increase in mail ballots often means a decrease in both lines and costs.
Texas can reduce costs and increase voter convenience by expanding its semi-permanent absentee voting list, where voters can sign up to automatically be sent an absentee ballot for each election without having to re-apply. Expanding Texas’s permanent absentee option to all residents and making the list truly permanent, rather than from year to year, would save the state significant expenses by cutting down on the requests it needs to process; on average, states save $1 for every request they no longer need to process.
We recommend Texas, as it creates its statewide ballot tracking system for all voters, to design an advanced system to allow voters to track their ballot much like an Amazon package. Advanced ballot tracking systems can proactively notify voters when their ballot takes a new step in the path from being sent to them to finally being counted (or rejected). If a ballot is rejected, these ballot tracking tools can be used as another method to contact voters if there is a signature mismatch or deficiency on their return envelope.
Creating an online portal for voters to register to vote and request an absentee ballot is not only convenient; if it feeds directly into the voter registration system, it can be an important step to help verify addresses, collect contact information, and to remove administrative steps to process a large number of applications. We encourage an integrated process that allows new voters to register, current voters to make changes to their address, and make requests for ballots in a seamless manner.
In the event that a voter’s ballot is rejected, said voter should have the ability to cure any correctable issues with their ballot quickly and simply to lower rejection rates. As more voters use absentee ballots and, understandably, the number of rejected absentee ballots increases, we recommend implementing a Text2Cure system that allows voters to cure their ballots from their phones.
Allowing multiple drive-up ballot drop off locations (like the ones counties made in 2020) and secure drop boxes are a cost-effective way to reduce strain on the postal system and are often a preferred method by voters who want an extra bit of reassurance that their ballot makes it to the elections office on time. We highly recommend including provisions to allow for ballots to be received at polling and vote centers, as well as other locations deemed necessary by the clerk.

Recent Legislation

As of September 8, 2021

Texas was one of only five states to not offer voting by mail without an excuse in the general election, nor did it pass any laws or executive orders to facilitate a smooth election in 2020. Some counties took the initiative to offer drive-through ballot drop-off locations. In response to this, Governor Abbott ordered that counties could only offer one drop-off location in the entire county. A long legal battle ensued with the state supreme court eventually ruling the limitations were legal.

In 2021, two major anti-voter bills, SB7, a bill that would have made it more difficult to apply to vote absentee, and HB 3, which would have restricted emergency powers to allow all voters to vote by mail, barely failed at the end of the regular session. In response, the state has initiated two special sessions. At the end of the second special session, the state passed SB1, an anti voter bill. SB1 effectively bans drop boxes, limits early voting, requires ID to vote by mail (an unnecessary addition, considering the state already does signature verification), and bans election officials from proactively sending out absentee applications (or ballots).

Bans drop boxes, limits early voting, requires ID to vote by mail (an unnecessary addition, considering the state already does signature verification), and bans election officials from proactively sending out absentee applications (or ballots).
This bill makes knowingly counting invalid votes and knowingly NOT counting valid votes felonies.

HB 1622 creates a complaint mechanism for cases in which early voting clerks violate reporting requirements.

 

This bill adds data posting requirements for election results.

HB 1382 requires the Secretray of State to provide clerks with an online ballot tracking system for mail-in ballots and applications.

This bill prescribes restrictions re: who can be present in polling places and at meetings of early voting ballot boards.

This bill enacts a variety of technical reforms regarding recounts/voter registration/voter registration list maintenance and early voting. Most importantly, it would add that being in the National Guard or in the reserves and on active duty (or a spouse) is a valid reason to vote absentee and nullify the provision that allows for faxed voter registration applications.

Limits local autonomy for both county government and election officials to accept donations, such as grants to buy more election equipment or pay for ballot tracking.

Clarifies that lack of transportation/illnesses that do not confine someone/employment are not valid reasons to vote absentee and adds being in childbirth to the list of valid reasons to vote absentee.

Alters the compensation structure for the presiding judges of early ballot voting boards.

Requires the state to conduct risk limiting audits, requires voting machines to have paper trails, bans voting systems from being able to be connected to the internet (or internal networks).