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Analysis

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
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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.