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Texas Republicans Move Swiftly on Voter Suppression Bills

The Texas Senate is poised to vote on legislation that would harm voters of color, and a Texas House committee is about to consider another broad voter suppression bill.

March 30, 2021

We’ve writ­ten that some Texas politi­cians were using scare tactics to justify their anti-voter bills. Since then, it’s become even clearer that Texas will continue to be a hotspot for voter suppres­sion — and oppon­ents of the right to vote are moving fast.

We’re still most alarmed at the two omni­bus bills that the state legis­lat­ive lead­er­ship is push­ing through. On Wednes­day, the full Texas Senate is poised to take up Senate Bill 7, which passed out of the Senate State Affairs Commit­tee last Friday after hours of public testi­mony over­whelm­ingly in oppos­i­tion to the bill. This Thursday, the House Elec­tions Commit­tee will consider another broad reach­ing voter suppres­sion bill, House Bill 6.

Senate Bill 7 would burden voters in large Texas cities in a number of differ­ent ways. It requires an equal number of voting machines at county­wide polling loca­tions, which is a back­door way of elim­in­at­ing large voting centers that could be used by large numbers of city resid­ents. The bill also makes it illegal to offer 24-hour and drive-through voting, no doubt in response to the innov­a­tions Harris County used in response to the pandemic. All of these voting meth­ods allow elec­tion admin­is­trat­ors to provide good customer service to their voters, and they help to prevent longer lines in heav­ily popu­lated urban areas during voting.

Senate Bill 7 also includes other forms of voter suppres­sion: it requires that voters seek­ing to use the disab­il­ity exemp­tion for voting by mail provide docu­ment­ary proof of their disab­il­ity, and it openly invites the harass­ment of voters at polling places by allow­ing poll watch­ers to video­tape voters while they are voting.

On Thursday, after a very public flap over the hear­ing process, the House Elec­tion Commit­tee will hear testi­mony on House Bill 6, a second omni­bus bill that would add another layer of voter suppres­sion meas­ures. It would limit the abil­ity of elec­tion work­ers to protect voters against harass­ment and impose trouble­some require­ments on those assist­ing voters. It would also prohibit elec­tion offi­cials from send­ing absentee ballot applic­a­tions to voters who have not reques­ted them.

Let’s not forget: These efforts to restrict votes do not arise from a prob­lem based in facts or real­ity. Rather, they rest on the Big Lie, the disproven notion that there was mass voter fraud in 2020. Prom­in­ent Texas lead­ers actively ampli­fied lies of voter fraud in the after­math of the last elec­tion. In fact, they are still spread­ing lies about voting in order to bolster their case for suppress­ive bills. In a recent Texas House Elec­tions Commit­tee hear­ing, the Texas attor­ney gener­al’s office claimed that yearly cases of voter fraud were rising swiftly. This claim turned out to be not only highly mislead­ing, but further invest­ig­a­tion revealed that prosec­u­tions are reportedly dispar­ately target­ing minor­it­ies.

Again, in Texas, it is past time for lawmakers to leave the divis­ive lie of voter fraud in the past, where it belongs, and turn their atten­tion to ensur­ing all Texas voters have fair, free, and equal access to the ballot box moving forward. Texans of all polit­ical stripes, as well as busi­ness and other civic organ­iz­a­tions must stand up and loudly say “No!” to Senate Bill 7 and House Bill 6.