The confusion started in the first hour of the first day of early voting in San Antonio last October. Signs in polling places about the state’s controversial voter ID law contained outdated rules. Poll workers gave voters incorrect information. Lines were long — full of people who were full of uncertainty. The presidential election of 2016 was off to a sputtering start in Texas, where years of angry claims about illegal voting had led to a toughening of identification requirements for those going to the polls. On that day last October, Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, was met with a line out the door when she arrived at her San Antonio polling place. “A poll worker stood in front of me where I was and said, ‘You are at the one-and-a-half-hour mark,'” Perales said. “And she insisted your ID needed to be out when you got to the front of the line.”
But that, in fact, wasn’t the law. A compromise a federal court had settled on months before allowed those without photo IDs to fill out an affidavit and show alternate ID. “So, we filed suit against the county,” Perales said.
Days later, Bexar County, home to San Antonio, agreed to try and remedy its mistakes — poll workers would be retrained, signs would be corrected and voicemail instructions for voters would be updated.
But a ProPublica review of the 2016 vote in Texas shows that Bexar County’s problems were hardly isolated — and, in many cases, were beyond fixing.