Mail-in ballot requests rejected at high rate


Mail-in ballot applications for the March 1 primary are rejected by nearly 40% – largely because of a missing ID number, which is now required after a new voting bill was passed. passed by the Legislative Assembly last year.

The Houston Chronicle reported that nearly four out of 10 Harris County absentee ballot requests were denied last week. Early voting began Feb. 14, and the deadline for mail-in ballot requests is Feb. 18.

Other Texas counties also reported high rejection rates, including Travis, Williamson, Hays and Bastrop counties, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Those wishing to vote by mail must include a driver’s license number, state identification number or, in some cases, the last four digits of their Social Security number. If what the applicant provides does not match the applicant’s individual voter registration information, the application should be rejected.

Texas has one of the strictest voting-by-mail requirements in the country. Registered voters can vote by mail if they are 65 or older; sick or disabled; out of county on election day and during the early voting period; should give birth within three weeks before or after election day; or imprisoned but otherwise eligible.

Early voting continues until February 25.

Drought conditions improve slightly

The latest drought map for the state shows a slight improvement as of Feb. 1, with 84% of the state experiencing some level of drought, down three percentage points from the previous month. Dr. Mark Wentzel, a hydrologist with the Texas Water Development Board, said there have been some improvements over the past month, mostly in East Texas. Additional precipitation in early February, primarily in East Texas and Central Texas, is expected to improve conditions by the next report in March.

Large swaths of the Panhandle and Great Plains are experiencing the worst drought conditions.

Texas top exporting state for 20th year

Data released last week by the US Census Bureau showed Texas was the nation’s top exporting state for the 20th straight year. The state exported $375.3 billion worth of goods last year, more than California and New York combined. The state also led the country in technology exports for the ninth consecutive year.

“Made in Texas is a powerful global brand, and the Lone Star State continues to lead the country in exports, thanks to our unparalleled and productive workforce, robust infrastructure, and welcoming business environment,” said Governor Greg Abbott.

Funding available for clean school bus program

An estimated $13 million in grant funding is available through the Texas Clean School Bus program to replace or retrofit school buses to reduce exposure to their diesel exhaust. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is accepting applications from school districts statewide.

Grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Districts can be reimbursed for all costs of bus upgrades, or 80% of the costs of replacing older buses with newer, cleaner models, according to TCEQ.

Only buses used daily are eligible. Although the deadline is in October, funding generally runs out when enough applications are received. More information can be found at www.terpgrants.org.

Generating sets under increased surveillance

During the winter storm in early February, the state’s power grid withstood increased demand, with few outages reported. Regulators attribute an increase in inspections by the Texas Electrical Reliability Board in December.

The Dallas Morning News reports that ERCOT inspected 324 generators and transmission systems in December; the Public Utilities Commission imposed fines of $7.5 million on companies that failed to file weatherization plans by the deadline.

“We’ve been working for a year to make sure this network is more reliable than it has ever been in the past – and it is,” ERCOT Acting CEO Brad Jones said a few days ago. before the snow and sleet arrive.

In addition to increased inspections, legislation passed in the last regular session required power producers to winterize their plants. Additionally, alternate fuel sources are needed if natural gas is not available. Although this year’s storm was not as severe as Uri’s winter storm in 2021, so far the network has withstood increased demand.

The state’s largest power producer, Vistra, is spending up to $80 million to ensure its plants keep producing power despite everything Mother Nature throws at them, The Morning News reported. .

COVID-19 cases continue to fall sharply

It appears the omicron variant of COVID-19 has truly peaked, with new cases in the state over the past week falling to 109,990, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. That’s a decrease of 75% over the past month, while new deaths at 1,398 remained essentially unchanged.

Texas Department of State Health Services reported a total of 8,140 hospitalizations for COVID-19, down 23.6% from the previous week. The number of fully vaccinated Texans exceeded 17 million, or 58.6% of the state’s population. Just over 6 million Texans also received a booster dose, which was found to be effective in preventing more severe symptoms of the omicron variant, the researchers said.

Gary Borders is an award-winning veteran journalist from Texas. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas over a 30-year period, including Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches, and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.

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