Texas short on new voter registration cards due to supply chain issues

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Over the past several months, supply chain issues have impacted everything from the price of groceries to new cars.

Now, just days away from the Jan. 31 deadline to register to vote in the March primary elections, the Texas Secretary of State's Office said supply chain issues are to blame for them not being able to get out voter registration cards in as large a quantity as usual.

Back in September, Dr. Annie Johnson-Benifield, the president of the League of Women Voters of Houston said they requested 16,000 voter registration cards from the Texas Secretary of State's Office.

So far, she says they have received 1,000 cards and they believe another 100 are heading their way - but said that will not be enough.

"Before COVID-19, the league was registering about 30,000 newly sworn-in citizens over a course of 12 to 15 naturalization services in a calendar year," explained Benifield.

Now, Benifield said the local league takes 3,500 voter registration cards to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in Houston each month to be distributed to newly sworn-in citizens.

She says soon, they will run out of cards to do so.

"When we make our delivery this month, that will be the last delivery we can make unless we print some new cards," said Benifield.

So what is the hold up?

To start with, as a result of Senate Bill 1, the wording on the cards had to be changed, meaning the Secretary of State's Office had to order all new stock.

"The delay was a result of a couple of different factors, supplies and the employees having difficulty and sometimes having to shut down. In fact, it's my understanding that they had to shut down production again as a result of COVID issues," said Texas Secretary of State John B. Scott.

Scott said having to start their supply from scratch and pandemic-related supply chain issues have both played a role in not being able to fulfill large requests from civic organizations like the League of Women Voters.

"What we've let the League of Women Voters know, as well as other organizations, take 1,000 .... as you need more, let us know. We are constantly reevaluating. We're constantly putting pressure to try and access other ones," said Scott.

By law, the Secretary of State's office does not have to supply organizations with the printed out forms, but Scott said they hope to do so in larger quantities again in the future.

"We love their mission, to try to get all of the eligible voters registered to vote so they can vote, that's a mission they share with us. So anything we can do to facilitate that process, we love to do. So again, I think this is a unique year and that hopefully, the supply chain will level out," said Scott.

The new voter registration form is on the Secretary of State's website, so people are able to print them out for themselves.

The League of Women Voters of Houston said they are in the process of getting a quote to get forms printed out. Benifield said the cost of printing them is just not something they anticipated or budgeted for.

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