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Why are so many ballot applications being rejected in Texas?

Travis County Judge Andy Brown says the changes are confusing voters, and he says this is not about election integrity - but voter suppression.

Ballot application mess

Counties across Texas are rejecting mail-in ballot applications at much higher rates than normal.

It's the result of a new Republican-backed law that changed the way ballot applications are filled out.

So far, Travis County has denied about 50% of the applications it's received. Travis County Judge Andy Brown says the changes are confusing voters, and he says this is not about election integrity - but voter suppression.

"SB1 passed and has, frankly, made it a lot more confusing and challenging for people to request vote-by-mail ballots, and the secretary of state had a long time to figure out this process, and now that people are starting to apply, we're seeing that basically about 50 percent of the people applying here in Travis County are not meeting the criteria," Brown told Inside Texas Politics.

He said he recognized that there would be hang-ups in rolling out any new process, but "the question is, why do you want to make it harder for people to vote in the state of Texas, and especially, why do you want to make it harder to vote by mail? That's clearly what's happened at the state-wide level."

Brown called it voter suppression. 

"It is literally making it harder for people to, in this case, request a mail-in ballot, which is something people have done for years and years, especially people over 65, and that's the same group that we're noticing is now being rejected at a very high rate," he said. "There was no reason to have made the changes that the state leadership made if their goal was not to suppress the vote."

Henry Cuellar FBI raid

On Wednesday, the FBI raided Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar's home and campaign office.

According to reports, agents removed boxes from his Laredo home and were present at a downtown building Cuellar owns.

The FBI would only say that they were conducting "court-authorized law enforcement activity."

First elected in 2004, Cuellar is an influential congressman from south Texas. His district includes San Antonio and Laredo. Should Cuellar worry about being reelected?

Ross Ramsey with The Texas Tribune said the timing of the raid is significant.

"Cuellar is in a tough primary against Jessica Cisneros, a woman he beat by only three-and-a-half percentage points in the Democratic primary in 2020, and now she's got something to talk about," he said. 

Bastrop County fire

Bastrop County just dealt with a scary urban wildfire.

It was started by the Texas Parks and Wildlife as a controlled burn in Bastrop State Park that got out of hand and led to road closures and evacuations – not a good look for the state.

Will there be a political fallout? Ramsey said he doesn't know that there would be, despite the inconvenience it caused for people.

"It helps, on that score anyway, that no homes were burned down, nobody was hurt," he said, but added that it likely triggered some PTSD.

"Bastrop had terrible fires a few years ago, and a lot of people immediately flashed back to that."

Formidable fundraisers

It's likely, Democrat Beto O'Rourke and Republican Greg Abbott will face each other this fall in the governor's race.

The latest campaign finance reports show both are formidable fundraisers. O'Rourke raised $7.2 million in the first 46 days of his campaign. Abbott collected $18.9 million over the last six months, but has a total of $65 million on hand.

Rick Klein, the political director for ABC News, put all this into context, calling both those numbers "eye-popping."

"I think it's fair to say money will be no object in the gubernatorial race in Texas," he said. "I think it's going to be a year of a lot of ads, a lot of excitement, and a lot of big spending in both parties."

Y’all-itics – live!  

Y'all-itics is celebrating a first this week: the first episode before a live audience. County judges and commissioners spent three days in College Station discussing policy and politics.

Judges Glen Whitley, from Tarrant County, and Eddie Trevino, from Cameron County, are bi-partisan leaders criticizing some of the state's Republican leadership for retreating on the principle that Austin shouldn't tell local governments how to do their job.

“They seem to be intent upon trying to centralize folks, all the power into Austin, where I believe they feel like they can have more influence on the elected officials there. And I think it's caused a great deal of damage to Texas and the citizens of Texas,” Judge Glen Whitley said on Y'all-itics.

Click here to listen to the latest podcast episode.

Watch the latest episode of Inside Texas Politics below: