Tamir Kalifa / Getty Images
Texas Republicans have introduced another set of sweeping bills that proponents of suffrage say could make it harder to vote in a state that already has some of the most restrictive electoral laws in the country.
The bills – House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1 – were tabled during the special legislative session convened by Gov. Greg Abbott, which began Thursday. Republican leaders promised to take another pass by approving the ballot law after the Texas House Democrats blocked an earlier effort in May to pass more voting restrictions.
However, HB 3 and SB 1 do not include some of the more controversial measures added to the previous bill in the last hours of the legislative session in May. These included a provision that would have restricted voting on Sunday as well as a measure that would have allowed election officials to overturn the election results if there were allegations of voter fraud.
The bills are part of a nationwide effort by state-level Republicans to pass more restrictive voting laws following the loss of former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Trump and his allies have wrongly claimed the election was stolen. Twenty-eight restrictive voting laws in 17 states have been passed since January, according to the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice.
Recent bills in Texas include new identification requirements for people who vote by mail, and prohibit local election officials from sending a vote-by-mail application to someone who has not requested one.
They also prohibit drive-through voting and extended hours during early voting. Republicans in the state claim that these innovations – which were mostly used by Houston officials during the pandemic – opened the door to voter fraud.
James Slattery, senior attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, said voters of color and shift workers benefited most from these election methods last year.
“And then you can consider the ban on these forms of voting as a direct attack on voters of color in particular,” he said.
In addition, the bills expand what biased pollsters can observe during elections, and prohibit pollsters from being removed for violating the election law. If adopted, these bills will also create new criminal sanctions for any election official who “knowingly or knowingly refuses to accept a [poll] seer. “
Slattery said those bills basically provide a wealth of new powers for biased pollsters.
“Both bills make it harder to control disruptive partisan pollsters when they act aggressively or disrupt the poll,” he said.
The bills also create a series of new criminal sanctions and demands on people who help voters at polling stations, or people who help others who plan to vote by mail.
For example, they require people to fill out paperwork if they take someone who is not a relative to vote in person. And they demand that people leave a car if someone is voting on the front edge of the vehicle.
And while Republicans have withdrawn to another provision that would have made it easier to overturn the election results, Slattery said those bills held other parts of that measure.
He said it includes a way to lose candidates to “harass winning candidates in court” through a new electoral competition process that allows the former to claim various forms of voter fraud. Slattery said this process could make the results of an election worse.
“When you think about what this is, this is part of the effort we have seen – especially in other states after the 2020 election – to undermine the legitimacy of the election results,” he said.
Republicans in Texas have argued that concerns about electoral integrity are serious and should be addressed, even though they have not provided evidence of any widespread problem with voting in the state.
State Representative Travis Clardy, a Republican from Nacogdoches who is a member of the Texas House election committee, told NPR in June that he has “zero doubt about the legitimacy of elections” in the state.
“This is a precautionary measure for us,” he said. “We have heard evidence throughout our session about problems with voter irregularities, of vote fraud, of cases currently being investigated. It’s a question. It’s a real thing. But I think it’s ours. job to make sure it does not make it flourish into a problem. “
Slattery said the provisions of those bills, however, do nothing to make the election safer in Texas and instead promote the false claims Trump and his allies have made that the 2020 election was stolen.
“There is no electoral advantage for almost any of these provisions,” he said. “It all serves the big lie and enshrines the big lie even further in the legislation of this most restrictive state in the country.”