The Texas State Capitol in Austin is seen on the first day of the special session of the state legislature on July 8th. The Republicans, who control the state, will try to pass new electoral laws, adding the penalties and making it harder to vote. Tamir Kalifa / Getty Images Hide caption
Tamir Kalifa / Getty Images
Tamir Kalifa / Getty Images
The Texas Republicans have come up with yet another set of sweeping electoral laws that franchisors 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 Governor Greg Abbott, which began Thursday. Republican leaders in the state pledged to give another vote to approve the voting laws after the Texas House Democrats blocked an earlier effort in May to impose further voting restrictions.
However, HB 3 and SB 1 do not include some of the more controversial measures that were added to this previous bill in the final hours of the May legislature. This includes a provision that would have restricted voting on Sundays, as well as a measure that would have allowed election officials to overturn election results if there are allegations of voter fraud.
The bills are part of a nationwide effort by Republicans at the state level to enact more restrictive electoral laws following the defeat of former President Trump in the 2020 election. Trump and his allies have falsely claimed the election was stolen. According to the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice, 28 restrictive electoral laws have been passed in 17 states since January.
The latest Texas bills include new identification requirements for people who vote by post and prohibit local election officials from mailing applications to someone who has not submitted a motion.
They also prohibit drive-through voting and extended hours during early voting. Republicans in the state argue that these innovations – used primarily by Houston officials during the pandemic – opened the door to electoral fraud.
James Slattery, a senior official with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said color voters and shift workers benefited most from these voting methods over the past year.
“Therefore, the bans on these forms of voting can be seen as a direct attack on voters of color, in particular,” he said.
In addition, the bills expand what partisan election observers can observe in elections and prohibit election observers from being removed for violating the electoral law. If these laws were passed, new criminal sanctions would also be created for any election worker who “willfully or knowingly refuses to.” [poll] Observer.”
Slattery said these bills basically give party election observers a host of new powers.
“Both bills make it difficult to control disruptive partisan election observers if they act aggressively or disrupt the vote,” he said.
The bills also create a number of new criminal penalties and requirements for those who assist voters in elections or assist others planning to vote by postal vote.
For example, they require people to fill out papers when taking someone who is not a relative to vote in person. And they require people to get out of a car if someone is on the curb in that vehicle.
And while Republicans withdrew another provision that would have made it easier to overturn election results, Slattery said those bills kept other parts of that measure.
He said this includes an opportunity for lost candidates to “harass winning candidates in court” through a new contest process that allows the lost candidates to claim various types of electoral fraud. Slattery said this process could pollute the results of an election.
“If you think about what it is, it is part of the efforts we have seen – especially in other states after the 2020 elections – to undermine the legitimacy of the election results,” he said.
Republicans in Texas have argued that electoral integrity concerns are serious and should be addressed, despite providing no evidence of a widespread voting problem in the state.
Travis Clardy, a Republican from Nacodoches and a member of the Texas House of Representatives Electoral Committee, told NPR in June that he had “no doubt about the legitimacy of elections” in the state.
“This is a preventive measure for us,” he said. “We have heard testimony throughout our session about issues of voter irregularity, voter fraud and cases that are currently being investigated. It’s an issue. It’s a real thing. But I think it’s our job to make sure this isn’t the one Case is. ” blossom into a problem. “
However, Slattery said the provisions in these bills do not help make Texas elections safer, but instead encourage the false claims made by former President Trump and his allies that the 2020 election was stolen.
“Almost none of these provisions have an advantage in terms of election security,” he said. “Everything serves the big lie and anchors the big lie even further in the laws of this most restrictive state in the country.”