Texas Senate Advances Invoice Limiting How And When Voters Can Forged Ballots, Obtain Mail-In Voting Functions – Houston Public Media
Like other proposals under consideration at the Texas Capitol, many of the restrictions in Senate Bill 7 target initiatives championed in Harris County to make it easier for more voters to vote.
Senate Republicans on Thursday cleared the way for new, sweeping restrictions on voting in Texas, specifically aimed at banning local access expansion efforts.
In an overnight vote after more than seven hours of debate, the Texas Senate signed Senate Bill 7, which would limit extended early voting hours, prohibit voting through, and make it illegal for local election officials to proactively send through motions to vote Mail to voters even if they qualify.
Legislation is at the forefront of the Republicans’ crusade to further restrict voting in the state after last year’s election. Although Republicans continue to have full control of the state government, 2020 saw the highest turnout in 2020 in Texas. The Democrats have continued to raise their votes in the state’s urban centers and diversify the suburban communities.
As with other proposals under consideration at the Texas Capitol, many of the restrictions in SB 7 would target initiatives advocating in these areas to make it easier for more voters to vote.
The bill passed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was ranked priority is now being put up for scrutiny after quickly passing through the Senate. It was brought up by a Senate committee on Friday just two weeks after it was filed. That approval came after more than five hours of public testimony, largely at odds with concerns that would adversely affect voters who are already struggling to vote under the state’s strict electoral rules.
While submitting the bill to the Senate, Republican Senator Bryan Hughes said the legislation “standardizes and clarifies” the voting rules so that “every Texan has a fair and equal choice wherever he lives in the state.”
“Overall, this bill is designed to address areas throughout the process where bad actors can benefit so Texans can be assured that their choices are fair, honest and open,” said Hughes.
In Texas and at the national level, the Republican campaign to change electoral rules in the name of “electoral integrity” has been built largely on concerns about widespread electoral fraud, for which there is little or no evidence. More recently, Texas Republican lawmakers have sought to reformulate their legislative proposals by offering that even a fraud case will undermine the voice of a legitimate voter.
Hughes, however, met fierce opposition from Senate Democrats, who took turns arguing the legislation would make sweeping changes to address isolated – and infrequent – cases of fraud at the expense of electoral initiatives that have been particularly successful in reaching color voters.
“As I see this calculation, it is a pure case of oppression. There are some things here that are really offensive, ”said Senator Borris Miles, D-Houston. “That hurts to the core.”
The bill originally limited early voting hours from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and shortened the extended hours offered last year in Harris County and other major counties when voting went on for several days until 10:00 p.m. to accommodate people like shift workers for whom it was no regular working hours are work. The bill was rewritten before it reached the Senate so that it could only be voted between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
But those hours will still ban the day of the 24-hour voting that Harris County offered last November. The legislation would also prohibit the drive-through voting, which was set up at 10 polling stations in the county for the general election.
When interviewed by Hughes, Houston Democratic Senator Carol Alvarado referred to an analysis by the Harris County Electoral Bureau which estimated that black and Hispanic voters cast more than half of the votes, both in transit locations and during extended hours were counted.
“If you know that, who are you really aiming for?” Asked Alvarado.
“This bill has nothing to do with targeting specific groups. The rules apply across the board,” Hughes replied.
In defending the portions of the bill targeting Harris County’s initiatives, Hughes partially referred to the restrictions he put on election observer oversight and characterized them as “the eyes and ears of the public.” Election monitors are not public watch dogs, but are inherently partisans appointed by candidates and political parties to serve at polling stations. And election observers had access to drive-through and 24-hour voting last year.
If passed, the law would expand election observers’ access to polling stations and even allow them the ability to video-record voters who receive assistance in filling out their ballot papers if the observer “reasonably believes” that the assistance is unlawful. This provision has raised particular concerns about the potential intimidation of voters who speak languages other than English, as well as voters with intellectual or developmental disabilities who may need solicitation or interview assistance that could be misunderstood as coercion.
The rallying of civil rights organizations that warned against the bill could lead to the disenfranchisement of color voters and voters with disabilities. The version of the bill passed by the Senate addressed one of their main concerns.
In Texas, individuals wishing to email voting because of a disability can request a single ballot or request a ballot once for each election in a calendar year. Originally, the bill would have required voters citing a disability to provide evidence of their condition or illness, including written records from the social security agency or a doctor’s letter to qualify for the latter. Hughes endorsed an amendment from Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo to negate this request, citing the “confusion” it had caused and feedback from lawyers for people with disabilities.
However, Republicans turned down more than a dozen Democratic amendments to remove other parts of the bill, clarify the language of how local election officials could post request to voters who seek them, and one amendment that allowed the right to vote seemed to confirm.
Just before the Senate vote to move the bill forward, Dallas Senator Royce West criticized Republicans for failing to listen to Democrats’ concerns about how the bill would harm color communities represented by color senators – all of them Democrats have seen a legacy of oppression when it comes to voting.
“I hope that one day you will hear us – not just hear us, but listen to us,” said West. “The passage of this bill this evening makes it clear that on these issues you did not understand our plight in this country.”
SB 7’s ban on emailing voting requests to voters who have not requested them comes after an election in the pandemic that saw the number of votes cast by post increased significantly as voters tried to feel themselves to protect against a deadly virus. Other Texas counties have been proactively sending motions to voters 65 and older who will automatically qualify for voting via email. However, Harris County was under scrutiny by the Republicans for attempting to send applications to all 2.4 million registered voters in the county with specific instructions to see if they were eligible. The Texas Supreme Court ultimately blocked those efforts.
Texas Republicans’ attempt to prevent a repeat attempt echoes efforts in other states, including Georgia, where Republican lawmakers recently passed a similar ban. After the voters of the color helped get key states into the Democrats’ column. During the presidential election, Republicans channeled their myth that the US state election was stolen from the US as a legislative backlash
Hughes rejected the Texas Democrats’ conclusions throughout the debate that his bill was part of a national push by his party. He pointed out aspects of SB 7 that stem from failed legislation proposed during the 2019 legislature.
“If we focus on the provisions of this bill – not what the government is doing, but what is in this bill and the Texas election – we must agree that these provisions are general, they are consistent, they’re fair, ”said Hughes.
However, the Democrats pointed out that the focus is on reinforced electoral regulations in various urban areas as evidence. Aside from the Harris County restrictions, the legislation would also lay down specific rules for the distribution of polling stations in just a few counties with at least 1 million residents, most of which are either under Democratic control or have recently been won by Democrats, and state-wide elections.
“It is a strange coincidence that all of these laws are being tabled,” West said. “That’s all I say.”
The Texas Tribune is a non-profit, impartial media organization that educates Texans on – and deals with – public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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