Thousands of applications for mail-in ballots submitted by Texas voters have been delayed — and some voters may ultimately not receive ballots — because Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick‘s campaign instructed eligible voters to send requests for absentee ballots to the Texas secretary of state’s office instead of their local elections offices.
A mass mailing by Patrick went out to Republican voters across the state in January, ahead of the March primary, and included a two-page letter emblazoned with the seal of his office encouraging voters to submit the requests following “three easy steps.” The problem was the third step, which instructed voters to return the applications in an enclosed reply envelope that was addressed to the state.
The lieutenant governor’s campaign said it used the secretary of state’s address because “many Republican voters are rightly suspicious of Blue County election officials.”
“The decision to direct return mail to the Secretary of State (SOS), someone who is trusted and respected, gave voters an added layer of comfort,” Allen Blakemore, a campaign consultant for Patrick, wrote in an email.
But the campaign’s approach forced the secretary of state, which had a stated policy of rejecting applications erroneously sent its way, to sort and forward the Patrick-inspired forms to the counties where they should have been sent originally.
The delayed delivery could put voters’ requests for mail-in ballots at risk as counties continue to see higher-than-normal rejection rates of applications under new ID requirements enacted by Republicans last year. Any issues with defective applications must be resolved by Friday so voters can receive a mail-in ballot.
State workers have been forwarding the waylaid applications to respective counties, which this week were still receiving packages containing hundreds of misdirected applications.
The fiasco has further muddled the first election held since Patrick, as head of the state Senate, presided over last year’s passage of new laws tightening voting processes, including a measure making it a crime for local election officials to send out applications for mail-in ballots to people who did not request them….
In an email responding to questions about the misdirected applications, a spokesperson for the Texas secretary of state did not address the mailing campaign by the lieutenant governor.
“Generally speaking, we request that voters do not mail, fax, or email completed applications for Ballot by Mail to the Secretary of State Office,” wrote Sam Taylor, the spokesperson, noting that the office would forward applications to early voting clerks “as a courtesy to help the voter.”
“It is not the voter’s fault if a third party put the incorrect return address on an ABBM, so we want to ensure voters are not adversely affected by that,” Taylor said.
This appears to be a departure from the office’s previous stance on applications wrongly sent to its office. The secretary of state’s website previously warned voters against sending applications to its office, noting that “all applications received by this office will be rejected.” That language was removed from the website at the beginning of the month, according to a screenshot of the same page archived by the Wayback Machine.