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Stacey Abrams speaks to Biden supporters as they wait for former President Barack Obama to arrive and speak at a rally as he campaigns for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, Nov. 2, 2020, at Turner Field in Atlanta. (AP) Stacey Abrams speaks to Biden supporters as they wait for former President Barack Obama to arrive and speak at a rally as he campaigns for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, Nov. 2, 2020, at Turner Field in Atlanta. (AP)

Stacey Abrams speaks to Biden supporters as they wait for former President Barack Obama to arrive and speak at a rally as he campaigns for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, Nov. 2, 2020, at Turner Field in Atlanta. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman February 3, 2022

Fact-checking Stacey Abrams on a Texas mail-in ballot denial

If Your Time is short

  • A Texas law passed in 2021 says that anyone who completes an application to vote by mail must include identifying information such as a driver’s license or state ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.

  • Kenneth Thompson, 95, registered to vote in Houston decades ago when the state didn’t require a driver’s license to register to vote. When Thompson applied for a mail ballot in January, his application was rejected because he was missing this ID information on his registration.

  • Thompson then updated his voter registration information and, as of Jan. 29, Harris County’s ballot tracker showed his mail ballot was being processed.

Stacey Abrams, a Democrat running for Georgia governor, said on CNN that state legislators are passing laws to undermine democracy and keep voters from the ballot box

Abrams brought up a situation involving a Houston voter, Kenneth Thompson, who had been in the news for his attempts to get a mail ballot.

"In Texas because of the laws they passed, a 95-year-old World War II veteran is being denied the right to vote by mail because he can't produce a registration number he got back in the 1950s," Abrams said on CNN Jan. 31.

She spoke prematurely. Thompson was eventually able to register to vote by mail, but it wasn’t easy. Thompson, who his daughter said has been voting since the 1940s, had to jump through hoops to apply for a mail ballot for the primary because of a new Texas law. It requires voters applying for mail ballots to provide ID information that matches that on their registration. That was a problem for Thompson because he registered to vote decades ago, back when the registration rules didn’t require such ID.

A spokesperson for Abrams’ campaign, Seth Bringman, said the fact that Thompson will maybe be able to vote by mail after being denied twice, his daughter calling election officials and having to update his registration "is the definition of a denial of his right."

"The hope that his right is restored after overcoming even more obstacles, and an assumption that everything will work out in the end, does not change that he is being denied this right, and is exactly the type of procedural hurdle — and mindset of those placing the procedural hurdles — applied throughout history to deny the right to vote, especially in states like Texas with a long history of discrimination," Bringman said.

New Texas law adds ID requirements for requesting a mail ballot

In 2021, the Texas state Legislature passed a sweeping new elections law that requires voters applying for a mail ballot to include identifying numbers such as those on their driver’s license, state ID or the last four digits of their Social Security Number.

If the number doesn’t match the number on file in their voter registration record — or if there is no such number on file — the application for a mail ballot must be rejected. The March 1 primary is the first statewide election under the new law. 

The provision has created a lot of confusion, including for voters who don’t remember what ID information they put on their registration — or, if in a case such as Thompson’s, they lack ID information on their registration.

As of Jan. 29, Harris County rejected about 10% of mail ballot applications due to the new ID rules. 

Thompson’s daughter, Delinda Holland, told PolitiFact that her father filled out an application for a mail ballot in January. When she called Harris County to check on the status, she was told that it was rejected because he didn’t include his driver’s license number, she said. Thompson applied again, and his second application was rejected, too. She then contacted the Secretary of State’s office, where she was directed to have her father re-register. 

Harris County elections spokesperson Leah Shah told us that the earliest voter registration record they have for Thompson is from 1976, when the office computerized records.

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"He has lived at the same voting precinct the entire 95 years," Holland said.

After being rejected for a mail ballot, Thompson updated his registration with ID information. Holland sent us a screengrab from the elections office mail ballot tracker showing that his mail ballot application was accepted Jan. 28 and that the ballot was being processed Jan. 29. 

The Secretary of State’s office has advised county officials and voters in similar situations to update their voter registration records, said Sam Taylor, a spokesperson for the secretary. As of Dec. 20, there were approximately 100,000 registered Texas voters that had neither identification number on their voter registration record out of more than 17.1 million registered voters, Taylor said.

Thompson said he will vote in person if that’s his only option

Holland said it’s easier for her father to vote at home than go to the polls, but he will vote in person if that’s his only option. But they both expressed concern that other senior citizens in the same situation may not have a way to sort through the bureaucracy to ensure their ability to vote by mail.

"I’ve been voting for many, many years, and I’ve never missed a vote," Thompson told an NBC-affiliated television station in Houston. "I can get out and move around and go to a regular polling place, but there are lots of people that can’t."

Holland said her father, a World War II Army veteran, instilled in his children and grandchildren that they must vote. 

"You vote, it’s not an option — it’s something you do," Holland said.

Our ruling

Abrams said, "In Texas because of the laws they passed, a 95-year-old World War II veteran is being denied the right to vote by mail because he can't produce a registration number, he got back in the 1950s." 

Thompson, the veteran, registered to vote in Houston decades ago when citizens didn’t have to provide ID.

He applied for a mail ballot twice in January and received two denial letters. A new state law that requires the ID on a mail ballot application to match that on their registration record. Thompson ended up submitting updated ID information for his voter registration and it appears his application was accepted Jan. 28 and processed Jan. 29.

Abrams made her statements after it had been reported that Thompson had re-registered. And there is still time for him to get a mail ballot for the March 1 primary, so Abrams’ comments were premature. But the situation was a new challenge for a man who says he has been successfully voting for decades.

We rate this statement Half True. 

RELATED: The battleground states where Republicans want to overhaul voting laws

Our Sources

CNN transcript, Don Lemon Tonight, Jan. 31, 2022 

Texas Secretary of State, Application for mail ballot, 2022

Click 2 Houston, ‘I’ve never missed a vote’: 95-year-old World War II Veteran says his mail-in ballot application has been denied twice due to new requirements, Jan. 25, 2022

The Guardian, Second world war veteran twice denied absentee ballot under Texas voting law, Jan. 29, 2022

Austin American-Statesman reporter Madlin Mekelburg, Tweet, Jan. 18, 2022

Beto O’Rourke, Tweet, Jan. 27, 2022

Texas Secretary of State,Election Advisory NO. 2022-08, Jan. 28, 2022

NPR, Why Texas election officials are rejecting hundreds of vote-by-mail applications, Jan. 20, 2022

Texas Tribune, Texas’ primary election is March 1. Here’s what you need to know to vote.  Jan. 17, 2022

PolitiFact, What's in Texas Republicans' voting bill and its last-minute additions?

VoteTexas.gov June 2, 2021

Telephone interview, Leah Shah, Harris County, Texas elections spokesperson, Feb. 1, 2022

Email interview, Sam Taylor, spokesperson for Texas Secretary of State John Scott, Feb. 1, 2022 

Telephone interview, Remi Garza, president of the Texas Association of Election Administrators and elections administrator in Cameron County, Feb. 1, 2022

Telephone interview, Delinda Holland, Harris County resident and daughter of Kenneth Thompson, Feb. 1, 2022

Telephone interview, Ashley Harris, ACLU of Texas equal justice works fellow, Feb. 1, 2022

Email interview, Seth Bringman, spokesperson for the Stacey Abrams campaign for governor in Georgia, Feb. 3, 2022

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Fact-checking Stacey Abrams on a Texas mail-in ballot denial

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