Even country music legend Willie Nelson found it hard to vote absentee in the March 1 primary under new Texas election laws, his wife said. Nelson and his wife made two attempts before they succeeded in obtaining absentee ballots from Travis County elections officials, wife Annie D’Angelo-Nelson told the Austin American-Statesman.

She said their first applications were rejected because of inconsistent identification information provided on the forms. She said they’re concerned for those wanting absentee ballots but aren’t as tech-savvy as her and her musician-husband.

Texas threw out mail votes at an abnormally high rate during the nation’s first primary of 2022, rejecting nearly 23,000 ballots outright under tougher voting rules that are part of a broad campaign by Republicans to reshape American elections, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

Roughly 13% of mail ballots returned in the March 1 primary were discarded and uncounted across 187 counties in Texas. Experts said anything above 2% generally draws attention. “My first reaction is ‘yikes,’” Charles Stewart III, director of the Election Data and Science Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told the AP. “It says to me that there’s something seriously wrong with the way that the mail ballot policy is being administered.”

Most of the rejected ballots, according to county election officials and the Texas secretary of state, failed to adhere to the new identification requirements. Republicans promised new layers of voting rules would make it “easier to vote and harder to cheat.” But the final numbers recorded by AP lay bare the glaring gulf between that objective and the obstacles, frustration and tens of thousands of uncounted votes resulting from tighter restrictions and rushed implementation.

In Texas, a state former President Donald Trump easily won although by a smaller margin than 2016, the trouble of navigating new rules was felt in counties big and small, red and blue. But the rejection rate was higher in counties that lean Democratic (15.1%) than Republican (9.1%).

At least 17 other states in the coming months will cast ballots under tougher election laws, in part driven by Trump’s baseless and persistent claims of rampant fraud in the 2020 election. The rejected ballots in Texas alone far exceeds the hundreds of even possible voter fraud cases the AP has previously identified in six battleground states that Trump disputed.

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