What to know about changes for mail-in ballots after Senate Bill 1 was signed into law

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Fort Bend County Judge KP George is raising awareness of the new voting laws in place after Senate Bill 1 was signed into law in 2021.

SEE MORE: Gov. Greg Abbott signs election integrity bill, SB1, into law

Republican leaders pushed for the bill, claiming it would help increase election integrity. The bill sets new identification requirements for voting by mail, enhances protections for poll watchers, prohibits drive-thru voting and more.

Now, just weeks away from the March 2022 primary elections, counties across Texas, including Fort Bend County, are making changes to how they administer ballots and mail-in ballots to meet the new law.

"It is so important everybody gets the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right," George said, "It is a constitutional right that many people fought and died for, so we can not take it lightly, especially after the 2020 elections."

According to Fort Bend County election officials, so far, out of the mail-in ballot applications its office has received, about 50% have been rejected. This is roughly 10 times more than previous election years.

"Up until 5 p.m. (Thursday), we had processed, effectively, 244 applications. We rejected 264," John Oldham, the Fort Bend County elections administrator said. "The vast majority of those is because voters simply didn't fill out the information that they were supposed to fill out."

Oldham said Senate Bill 1 requires registered voters, who are applying for a mail-in ballot, to include their Texas Driver's License number or the last four digits of their social security. Oldham said he recommends for Fort Bend County residents to include both to increase the chances of the application getting approved.

"We don't have to match both, we just have to match one, so it's vital that they give us as much information as they can possibly give us," Oldham said. "That's going to reduce the likelihood of these rejections, and believe me, we don't want to reject these. It's just twice as much work."

Early voting for the March 2022 primary election begins on Feb. 14.

"You know, it may be more inconvenient vote under these new rules, but you still have the right to vote and it is worth it," said Oldham.

If you are applying for a mail-in ballot, the application must be in the election's office by Feb. 18.

"I encourage you to vote, period," Cynthia Ginyard, with the Fort Bend County Democratic Party said. "If you are one of those persons who is used to voting by mail but you are able to go to the polls, please go to the polls."

For more details on applications for ballot by mail, visit the Vote Texas website.

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