WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three elections officials from Harris County, Texas sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to “exhaust every legal option available to ensure that each eligible voter in Harris County and the State of Texas has their vote counted” during the primary election that’s underway. Harris County, which contains the Houston metropolitan area, is the third most populous county in the United States. The letter was signed by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee and Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria.
The letter specifically raised concerns around the alarmingly high number of mail-in applications and ballots flagged for rejections during the ongoing primary election in the state. The authors cite a few concerning statistics: As of Feb. 15, 41% of mail-in ballot applications have been flagged for rejection, compared to 6.6% during the 2018 primary election. In the same time period, 35.5% of mail-in ballots themselves have been flagged for rejection. Hidalgo, Menefee and Longoria attribute this heightened rate of rejection to Texas Senate Bill 1, a law passed last year which contains a host of restrictive voting provisions, namely a complicated new personal identification requirement to request a mail-in ballot. “SB 1 is therefore achieving exactly what its authors set out to do: erect more hurdles in front of the ballot box and systematically suppress the vote in Harris County,” the letter reads.
In calling for the DOJ to intervene, the authors conclude: “No action is too small to preserve our democracy.”