AUSTIN (KXAN) — The number of mail-in ballots requested by registered voters in Texas for the Nov. 8 midterm election dropped by 64% compared to the 2020 presidential election.
In total, 440,373 mail-in ballots were requested statewide by the Oct. 28 deadline, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
That’s a decrease of 64% from more than 1.2 million requested in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s total is the lowest in any midterm or presidential election since 2014, according to data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which tracks voting data nationwide.
The number of mail-in ballots sent to Texas voters almost doubled in 2020 compared to 2018, echoing a trend seen nationwide. Across the country, more than 90 million mail-in ballots were sent to voters, up from 42 million in 2018, an increase of more than 110%.
Fewer than a third of voters cast their ballots on Election Day itself, as states expanded access to mail and early voting during the pandemic.
The legislation banned 24-hour polling locations and imposed changes to drive-thru voting, Senate Bill 1 brought new limits to voting by mail, including making it a state jail felony for elections officials to send voters requests for mail-in ballots.
“We knew if we stayed in Texas, that we would just be brought back to the House floor and be forced to vote on a bill that — to say is objectionable, is an understatement — a bill that would target and hurt our foundational right to vote,” Democratic State Rep. Gina Hinojosa said at the time.
Republicans said the bill was necessary to protect the integrity of elections in Texas, despite no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
“Senate Bill 1 ensures trust and confidence in our elections system — and most importantly, it makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a September 2021 press release after signing the bill into law. “Safe and secure elections are critical to the foundation of our state, and I thank Senator Hughes and Representative Murr for their leadership on this important issue. I am proud to sign Senate Bill 1 into law to uphold the integrity of our elections in Texas.”
How many Texans actually vote by mail?
Of the 1.2 million mail-in ballots that were sent to Texas voters in 2020, about 988,000 were returned and counted, meaning a return rate of about 82%.
That was the lowest of recent elections back to 2010, according to data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. As many as 94% of requested mail-in ballots were returned and counted in the 2012 presidential election.
The chart below shows the percent of mail-in ballots that have been returned in the Nov. 8 midterm election.
Ballots can be hand delivered to your county clerk’s office by 7 p.m. on Election Day. If you mail your ballot, it must be received by 5 p.m. on the first business day after Election Day to be counted. Ballots mailed from outside the U.S. must be received by the fifth day after Election Day.
Voters can track their mail-in ballot on the Secretary of State’s website.