Visitor view: A tawdry assault on voting rights, Senate Invoice 7 must be rejected by the Home | Opinion

This editorial first appeared in the Houston Chronicle. Guest editors do not necessarily reflect the views of the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Texas Republican Senators ignored the hours of expert testimony on the committee and local objections, overlooked full-page advertisements in newspapers, and ignored bipartisan polls. Nothing – let alone the will of the people – would prevent them from their mission: to make it harder to vote in a state that leads the nation in obstructing voters.

The GOP legislators, faced with the existential crisis of irrelevance in our diversifying state, are never satisfied with selecting their voters through gerrymandering. You do not take any risk of who is allowed to cast a vote. You have done the math and are not ready to campaign for a more inclusive party or to win a war of ideas to keep power. Why bother when it’s easier to get more people to vote?

That’s not how things work in a democracy, and that’s fine with them. Welcome to the Texas Oligarchy.

In the middle of the night and bypassing the rules of public notice, the legislature passed Senate Draft 7 last week. Gov. Dan Patrick formulates SB7 the suppression of voters under the guise of electoral integrity and is largely a compendium of bad politics. After moving quickly through the Senate, the laws are now being sent to the house for review.

The bill’s legitimacy sheet is that it will need and fund voting machines that will create a paper path – experts point out that this should improve election security and which has largely been ignored for more than a decade – and that the Texas Foreign Minister is developing an electronic development needs mail ballot tracking system.

Aside from these two measures, the legislation passed in a vote on the party line between 18 and 13 does more harm than good. It gives partisan election observers almost unrestricted access to a polling station and allows them to record video or audio if they “reasonably believe” election laws are being broken.

The bill was changed so that these records could only be shared with the Secretary of State (sorry, Facebook), but it’s still an invitation to intimidate, if not a twisted kind of voter vigilance. While election observers are not allowed to see someone’s voice, there’s nothing stopping them from hovering nearby, phone in hand, waiting to record and hint at fraud based only on guesswork.

SB7 also targets certain voting enhancements that were made in the past elections in Harris County and other major counties that have made it easier for more people to cast their votes.

The proposal specifies the number of polling stations and voting machines that can be made available based on the number of eligible voters in each state house district. This would result in fewer polling stations and longer queues, with Senator Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, noting that of the 14 districts in the House that would lose polling stations, a dozen are that are represented by members of the House of Representatives who are black, Latin American or black are of Asian descent.

Harris County voters who have had the opportunity to vote in their car or visit a 24-hour polling station will have to do without as SB7 prohibits both. It limits the voting times during the early voting from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and makes the drive-through voting superfluous. Why? Not because such voices have proven to be unreliable. Instead, it appears that these methods have proven popular with the wrong voters.

As reported in The Chronicle, more than 50% of ballots cast through drive-through and 24-hour locations were from black and Latin American voters. State Senator Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said he wrote the bill with no intention of disenfranchising minorities.

“There’s nothing in this bill that has to do with targeting specific groups,” he said. “The rules apply across the board.”

He’s right, the rules apply to everyone, but that confirms the absurd fiction that there is no legal concept like different effects. Many laws are neutral about racing, but their implications are far from. The Voting Rights Act aimed to give such bills special scrutiny in states like Texas, but no more. The abolition of a voting method favored by Black and Latino voters is exactly the kind of law that made the Voting Law so necessary.

Nor does it make sense to impose unnecessary paperwork on volunteers helping elderly or disabled voters in elections or drive them to a polling station for access to roadside voting, as SB7 does. Fortunately, a provision was removed from the bill requiring disabled voters to prove their disability before they could vote in the mail.

We continue to ask why these measures have been classified as “emergency”, why Patrick and Governor Greg Abbott believe this is an urgent piece of legislation that needs to be sped up in this session, why almost every electoral law that has the chance to do so Passing the session, being hit, it is harder to choose, not easier.

SB7 makes it clear that there is indeed a problem with election fraud in Texas that has nothing to do with the ballot papers and all of those who try to get in their way.

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