How to make sure your mail-in ballot isn't rejected after Harris County sends back 37% of them

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Election officials said they are seeing more mail-in ballots rejected in 2022 than in previous years.

Lawmakers enacted stricter voting guidelines, as part of Senate Bill 1, that require voters to include their driver's license number or the last four digits of their social security number.

Voters have returned 6,548 ballots to Harris County, but officials say they have flagged 2,467 for rejection.

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While Fort Bend County does not have an exact number, officials estimate they have rejected about 20%. When ABC13 reached out to Galveston and Montgomery counties, they did not have their numbers readily available.

One of the reasons they are being sent back is because people are not including the newly required driver's license number or social security number.

"Some voters are not including any," said Isabel Longoria, the Harris County Elections Administrator. "They are saying, 'That is my private information and I don't want to share,' or they are including one but not the other, and we have on record their driver's license number but not their social security number. Even though both numbers are true and accurate and legal, unless we have the same exact number for our file, we can't match up your mail ballot."

If in doubt about which number might be associated with your voter registration, officials suggest putting both.

When officials get mail-in ballots back, they pull off the top flap of the envelope to make sure one of the identification numbers is there. If it is blank, they send the ballot back to you with a new envelope to fill out

In Harris County, the turnaround time from receiving a ballot to mailing them back to you is 24 to 36 hours, according to Longoria.

Harris County has also color-coded its envelopes to make it easier for voters to understand what needs to be where.

SEE ALSO: What to know about Texas' election map as primary polls open

"You put your ballot in the green one," Longoria said. "Your green one in the purple one, sign and send back the purple one to us."

After a ballot has been rejected, voters can choose to vote in person instead.

"If you get your mail ballot sent back and you say 'I'm done. I don't want to deal with this complicated process,' bring back your ballot to an in-person voting location," Longoria said. "They'll log it and cancel it immediately so you can vote in person."

About half of the number of people have opted to vote by mail this year in comparison to 2018. Records show 30,379 applications have been processed this year versus 68,784 four years ago.

"It's anyone's guess right now to see if these laws are going to affect in-person voting as much as it did mail-in voting," Longoria said.

The deadline to get your application for a mail-in ballot to officials is Feb. 18. Ballots must be postmarked by March 2 to meet the March 3 deadline.

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