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15% of El Paso runoff mail-in ballots rejected so far

An example of how the El Paso County Elections Department would highlight rejected mail-in ballots returned to voters to emphasize the missing information.
Molly Smith/El Paso Matters
An example of how the El Paso County Elections Department would highlight rejected mail-in ballots returned to voters to emphasize the missing information.

EL PASO, Texas -- More than one of every seven mail ballots cast in El Paso for the primary runoff elections were rejected, mostly because of failure to comply with new steps required this year, the county’s election administrator said.

That rejection rate is much higher than in previous years, when fewer than 10% of mail ballots were thrown out, but down from the 45% rejection rate in the first week of early voting for the March 1 primary.

Andres Candelaria, 70, was angered when he was among hundreds of El Pasoans whose mail-in ballots were discarded in the primary. He said no complaints about his runoff vote.

“I once again voted by mail and have encountered no problem,” Candelaria said.

Through Wednesday, 562 mail-in ballots -- or about 15% of the more than 3,800 cast -- had been returned to voters, most because they did not include a driver’s license number or last four digits of their Social Security number on the ballot envelope, El Paso County Elections Administrator Lisa Wise said.

Wise said 165 of the returned ballots had been “cured” as of Wednesday, meaning voters had fixed the error. The 397 remaining rejected mail-in ballots -- and any others that might be rejected before Tuesday’s runoff elections -- can only be counted if they’re cured by next week. 

Voters can cure ballots by going to the County Courthouse, 500 E. San Antonio Ave., by May 31. Corrected ballots sent by mail have to be postmarked by Tuesday, May 24, and received by the elections office by Wednesday, May 25, Wise said.

The biggest cause of ballot rejections in both the primary and runoff has been a new state law passed last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature that requires voters to write either their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on the envelope with the ballot. Voters have to remember which of those numbers they used when registering to vote -- often decades ago -- and the numbers must match exactly.

Republicans said the measure was necessary to prevent fraud, though they presented no evidence of widespread fraud in Texas elections. Critics said the measure was designed to make voting more difficult.

In El Paso, the vast majority of rejected ballots in both the primary and runoff have been for Democratic Party contests, largely because Democrats are more likely than Republicans to use that means of voting.

Wise said the elections office has been proactive in trying to reduce the number of rejected ballots.

“This election, we began highlighting the carrier envelope from the beginning, alerting voters to the required information. That happened about halfway through with the primary election,” she said. “I believe that is helping with the percentage (of rejected ballots), and many of these voters are getting a second look at the new requirements as well.”

In the March primary, more than 1,000 mail-in ballots were rejected in the first week of early voting. Many voters were able to cure their ballots, but more than 700 mail-in ballots in El Paso County were discarded after election officials found non-compliance with state law and the voters failed to fix the problem. An El Paso Matters analysis found that the vast majority of rejected ballots were from regular voters, many of whom had been registered to vote in the county for decades.

People who vote by mail can track the status of their ballot online. The El Paso County Elections Department notifies voters when a mail ballot is rejected. If you have a question about mail-in voting or other election information, call the Elections Department at 915-546-2154.

This article first appeared on El Paso Matters and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

El Paso Matters

El Paso Matters is a member-supported nonpartisan media organization that uses journalism to expand civic capacity in our region.

Comments

19 Comments

  1. “Voters have to remember which of those numbers they used when registering to vote — often decades ago — and the numbers must match exactly.”
    Don’t voters have to remember those things for everything else they do in any business transaction? What’s the difference?
    “Republicans said the measure was necessary to prevent fraud, though they presented no evidence of widespread fraud in Texas elections.”
    What evidence did the demoKKKrats that shut downs, destroying the education of children, or even that masks and vaccines would prevent COVID?
    NONE given yet they destroyed the economy anyway. What’s the difference now?

  2. Trump destroyed the economy. Biden revived it. Now supply chain issues due to covid and oil company price gouging are destroying it again.

        1. 1.6% increase in unemployment and that was his FINAL number. That was due to the leftist shutdowns and scamdemic. Prior to that it was an all time low. Facts matter. You should try to use some.

        2. What good is employment when everything costs twice as much as before making it the take home pay of an average Joe a negative amount? Fool.

        3. Fake news Char Lie Dumbo. You can’t spin for s.h.i.t. nitwit. Here are the facts: “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.5% in fall 2019 — the lowest rate in about 50 years, since December 1969.” Stop spreading fake news.

    1. That is completely inaccurate. We had the strongest economy in US history under Trump. The stock Market is at a net negative since Biden took over. Retirement accounts are being depleted at a greater rate than under Carter and Biden owns all of it. Under Trump, when we needed more hand sanitizer, PPE and ventilators, Trump rallied corporations to help out and divert production to those needed products. Biden has done nothing to address the baby formula shortage until yesterday when he decided to put together a worthless “task force”. He’s done nothing to address the fuel crisis or the out of control inflstion that he’s caused.. A true leader, like Trump was, would rally the troops and figure it out. Biden is an illegitimate, incompetent moron whi has no idea what to do. His gross malfeasance MUST lead to an immediate impeachment

        1. No. They are absolutely facts and everyone in the country except a few hundred brain washed, uninformed radical leftists like knows it.

        2. Even Elon Musk agrees that your sorry, corrupt political party has become nothing but a divisive and hateful party that ONLY cares about power and not about America or Americans.

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