Voting by mail in Texas under the new rules
I have been voting by mail for the last 12 years. It has always been a simple process. But this year's experience with vote-by-mail is far more difficult than it used to be. In some counties, half of the applications are being rejected because of identity problems that don't appear to be the fault of the applicants as much as the fault of inadequate or inaccurate databases available to election clerks and confusing application forms.
After my experience with completing a vote-by-mail application under the new law adopted last year, I realized that the form is crowded with new requirements that make it easy to make mistakes. There is no good reason to make it more difficult to vote for those of us over 65 and the few others who qualify for voting by mail.
Because I have been reading articles about the new unnecessary roadblocks to voting enacted by the last Republican-controlled Legislature, I looked at the vote-by-mail form again. When I had completed it a few days ago and mailed it in, I did not put my driver license number or the last four digits of my Social Security number on the application form, one of which is now required.
Part of the reason I missed those requirements is the way the form is designed by, I assume, the Texas Secretary of State. Near the top of the form are some instructions followed by a place to print in name and address, and then the next section is for optional information. I did supply my date of birth, email address, and phone number — all information I did not have to look up. My voter ID number and precinct number I have not memorized and I did not provide, which doesn't matter since they are optional.
I missed a box to the right that resembles portions of many forms where the declarant is not supposed to write because it is reserved for officials to write information. My instinct was to continue going down the page to complete information about whether I wanted ballots for all elections, what primary I want to vote in, whether I also want to vote in a primary run-off, which seems ridiculous. If I want to vote in a primary, it seems logical that I would vote also in any run-off associated with that race. If the runoff candidates completely turned me off to the extent I would not want to vote in that run-off, I wouldn't know that until after the election, certainly not at the time I filled out the application to vote by mail.
After I signed the form, I saw in further instructions that if I were going to mail my wife's application after it was completed, I would need to sign her application as someone who "assisted " her or face a criminal charge in the Class A Misdemeanor category, which is a serious offense, punishable by up to a $4,000 fine and/or a year in jail. But then I read in another page of instructions that I did not need to complete the "assistant" section because my wife is "a close relative" or someone registered to vote at the same address as I am.
I printed the original form I completed by doing an online search for "Texas vote by mail." The first thing that popped up was the Secretary of State's website, one place where the form can be found. When I realized that I needed to complete a new form to correct my mistakes, I decided to find it at the Hays County Elections office website, which I have bookmarked on my web browser. I had to search that website for a couple of minutes to find the right link, which is buried in a tiny font on that site.
There is no reason for a complicated and error-ridden voter process because there has been almost no fraud associated with vote by mail for seniors in Texas who have availed themselves of the option, just as there is almost no voter fraud at all. Republicans are making life more difficult for no good reason for millions of Texas seniors and others entitled to vote by putting out shameless propaganda about voter fraud and instilling fear in applicants by applying serious criminal penalties that can result from honest mistakes.
Voting should be the easiest process in any democracy. Texas Republicans have assured that it will not be. It is almost enough to make me want to join the Texas Democratic Party.