DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Texas Secretary of State John Scott said Wednesday, Jan. 19 that some counties have mistakenly contributed to the confusion involving applications for mail-in ballots.
As CBS 11 reported Tuesday, hundreds of applications for mail-in ballots for the state's March 1 primary have been rejected by North Texas counties because they don't comply with the new state law, SB 1, that passed last year.
One reason is people filled out the old form.
The Secretary of State said some county elections departments didn't provide a link to the new, updated application.
CLICK HERE for the correct application.
"It appears that from whatever sources, including some of the counties had the old application on their website, for use for application for a ballot by mail. It's a huge concern. We had our new updated version on our website on December 3, the day after this statute went into effect," said Scott.
He said his office held a webinar for county elections administrators December 21, and that they discussed the new application needed for mail-in ballots.
Asked if the Secretary of State's Office told the counties about the new application before then, Scott said, "They absolutely would have had known where to go to get that, just like they got it and incorporated into the applications that they send out now."
Scott and officials at his office didn't specify which counties didn't update their websites with the link to the updated application.
He said the counties may have had more than just the incorrect links, but possibly mailed applicants the old forms.
"That's what we're looking into right now, is whether those were actually sent out that were old forms as well as connected to the link. "We don't believe that was mischievous in any way."
On Wednesday afternoon, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said his county updated the link.
Election administrators in Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties all told CBS 11 they had provided links to the new application on their websites too.
Judge Jenkins said he believes many people may have gotten the old applications from the Secretary of State's website before the new one was posted December 3.
Under the new law, county election officers are not allowed to send voters mail-in ballot applications unless they request them.
The political parties and private organizations are allowed to distribute the applications.
County election officials also said another problem is that some people may have obtained the old forms that can still be found in libraries and post offices.
Jenkins and Democratic party officials have said that both political parties have sent out the updated application for mail-in ballots.
Voting by mail is not widespread in Texas.
Those eligible to do so are 65 and older, sick or disabled, those expected to give birth within three weeks before or after Election Day, or out of the county during early voting and on Election Day.
Jenkins and other Democrats including State Senator Royce West, D-Dallas have repeatedly criticized SB 1 as a bad law.
In an interview Wednesday, West said, "We've had nothing but problems, problems, problems implementing Trump's law and that's what we're doing in Texas."
CBS 11 News reached out to State Senator Bryan Hughes, R-Tyler, author of SB 1, but didn't hear back. Republicans have said the new provisions in the law are necessary to prevent fraud.
As part of the new law, the state now requires applicants to place either a driver's license or a Texas DPS number or the last four digits of their social security number on the form.
But many forms have also been rejected because applicants have not provided the information that matches what's already in the state's voter registration database.
To avoid mistakes or a rejection of their application, Scott and election administrators strongly recommend that people place both their driver's license or DPS number and the last four digits of their social security numbers on the new application.
That's because most people may not remember which number they initially provided when they registered to vote.
If counties reject an application for a mail-in ballot, they are required to send the person a notice.
West said, "It's incumbent upon those local administrators make sure that people get the rejection letters, that they contact them, and make sure they know how to fill them out and get them validated."
As part of the new law, the state had to set-up a ballot tracker on the Secretary of State's website.
It allows voters to check the status of their applications and make any corrections.
The Secretary of State's office said it will offer training to the counties on Thursday.
Jenkins said he believes part of the problem is that the Secretary of State and the counties have a very compressed amount of time to put in place the new measures.
He believes with all of the publicity, all counties and private organizations will link to the new application.
The law requires that all applications are due no later than February 18.
No corrections will be allowed afterwards.
Scott urges people to vote.
CLICK HERE to see notice to be received if ballot is rejected.
Grace Chimene, President of the League of Women Voters of Texas, said she believes the Secretary of State's Office should provide more voter education on its website that offers more of an explanation about the application for mail-in ballots and about the ballot tracker.
Senator West said he is in the process of planning a townhall meeting with the Secretary of State in the next week so voters, whether Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, can learn information and ask questions.
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