More than 400 mail-in ballots rejected during primary elections in Bell County

Advocates claim language in new GOP law meant to create confusion
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 6:33 PM CDT
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) - Approximately 412 mail-in ballots in Bell County were rejected during the primary elections earlier this month, the Bell County Elections Office said.

“A lot of them, because the verification numbers didn’t match,” said Shay Luedeke, the county’s current interim elections administrator.

The verification number is a new requirement under SB1, an elections bill signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott at the end of 2020.

Among many new election regulations, the law requires mail-in ballot applicants to list either their Texas driver’s license number or the last four digits of their social security number. The caveat is that whichever number they put must match the number they used when they registered to vote.

“Some people, the last time they registered to vote was 40 years ago, they don’t remember what they put on there,” Luedeke said.

The new mail-in ballot application form says voters “must provide one of” the two ID numbers. It’s language that local voting rights activists like Irene Andrews say is intentionally creating confusion and disenfranchising voters.

“They act like it’s a trick question! Just tell us we need both kinds of ID so we can find which one you originally used when you registered to vote 30 years ago,” Andrews said.

Luedeke confirmed that Bell County received about 1,200 mail in ballot applications from the Texas Secretary of State’s office instead of directly from voters.

This is after Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s office admitted it directed voters to send their applications to the state instead of their county elections office because “many Republican voters are rightly suspicious of Blue County election officials.”

Bell County officials said that caused a delay in the mailing process and, likely, caused hundreds of ballots to not be received in time.

On top of the state issues, staffing issues within the Bell County Elections Office has caused additional challenges in an already tedious process.

The county has been without an election administrator since September 2020 when the elections administrator resigned.

Since then, the county has gone through two interim administrators in two years with the current one, Shay Luedecke, also balancing another role at the tax assessor’s office.

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