That’s the plan. Make people give up and walk away.
[Pam] Gaskin and her husband, Michael, were denied ballots twice this month over procedural mishaps — and if she were any less determined to vote, it may have stayed that way.
“I’ve been a voting rights activist all my life, and I’m 74 years old,” said Gaskin, now a Missouri City resident. “And I have not seen anything like this. I really haven’t.”
The first time, Gaskin submitted the wrong form, though she’d downloaded it from the Fort Bend County website. The new ID requirement warranted a new application, but the county hadn’t updated the document online when Gaskin grabbed it on Jan. 3.
With the new form at her fingertips, Gaskin tried again on Jan. 14. The document stated clearly: “YOU MUST PROVIDE ONE of the following numbers,” before offering space first for a driver’s license number and second for the last four digits of her Social Security number.
The second number, it said, was only necessary “if you do not have a Texas driver’s license, Texas personal identification number or a Texas election identification certificate number.” So, she filled it out using her driver’s license ID and called it a day.
On Jan. 20, Gaskin received her second denial. The rejection letter told her she hadn’t provided the same number she used when registering to vote — 46 years ago, when she moved to Fort Bend County. She called the county to ask what number was missing, but an employee told her she couldn’t say, fearing she would violate the new law.
And so Gaskin started a game of 20 questions, quizzing the elections worker on which detail was missing until she could confirm it was her social security number. (Remi Garza, the president of the Texas Association of Elections Administrators, said the worker was probably being “overcautious.”)
She filled out a third application and finally received her ballot on Monday.
Still, the incident prompted Gaskin to pen a letter to Gary Bledsoe, the head of the Texas NAACP, documenting her experience.
“I keep up with changes in the laws that affect voters and often speak to church groups and other community organizations,” she wrote. “I have NEVER experienced anything like these misguided and Jim Crow-like rules concerning voting. This is almost as bad as asking people how many jelly beans are in the jar.”
Gaskin, who has been a member of the Texas League of Women Voters for about 25 years, worries that others won’t be as persistent as she has been.
See here, here, and here for some background. If this wasn’t a deliberate effort by the Republicans in the Lege to make it harder for a particular segment of the population to vote, then it’s a combination of malpractice-levels of ignorance on the part of those legislators, who had plenty of testimony telling them what would happen, and a high level of incompetence from the Secretary of State, who has been pulling double duty on that front. You can believe there was no bad intent if you want, but the results speak for themselves. Not-bad intentions only get you so far.
Hundreds of other Texans have experienced similar problems. Earlier this month, nearly half of all mail ballot applications in Fort Bend County were rejected because they didn’t meet new stipulations in the elections law.
Now, county Elections Administrator John Oldham says that number has dropped significantly. Oldham estimated that he’d rejected about four out of 100 applications he processed this weekend.
That’s partially because the county found a way around the errors, he said. If a person provides a driver’s license number that’s not in the state voter registration system, county employees can now look elsewhere to find the information and add it to their voter file.
“It’s a lot more work, but it did cut down the rejections considerably,” Oldham said, adding that the Secretary of State’s office hadn’t initially informed the county of that option.
Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, told Hearst Newspapers earlier this month that the agency is working closely with counties to answer questions and provide assistance as they work through the new ballot laws. Counties can also accept applications that include both ID numbers, he added.
That at least is good news, and if you are or know someone who has been frustrated by this ridiculous process, you need to keep at it. Make sure you’re using the current form, include both your drivers license number and your SSN, and hope for the best. And then remember you’ll have to do this every damn election, because the goal was to make it harder on you. Mission accomplished.