Here’s what’s in the new Texas Republicans voting law – Houston Public Media
Updated September 7, 2021, 12:42 p.m. ET
Radical new voting restrictions are now in effect in Texas – a state that already had some of the most restrictive voting rules in the country.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed the measure on Tuesday. In a statement last week, Abbott said “Senate Bill 1 will build confidence in our election outcome by making it easier to vote and cheat.”
The GOP’s effort to pass its omnibus voting legislation has taken months. Texas House Democrats staged a last-minute walkout in late May to block a vote on the bill, then left town in July in a special session, denying Republicans a quorum to conduct legislative business . More than a month later, enough Democrats returned to the chamber for GOP lawmakers to pass the bill on close party principles.
The new law is part of a nationwide push by Republicans at the state level to enact more restrictive voting laws in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election. Trump and his allies have falsely claimed that the elections had been stolen.
Here’s what’s in the Texas law:
The measure includes new identification requirements for those voting by mail and prohibits local election officials from sending a request to vote by mail to someone who has not requested one. Voters also have new opportunities to correct errors with their mail ballots.
The law creates a series of new criminal penalties and requirements for people who assist voters at polling stations, or people who assist others who are planning to vote by mail.
It also bans drive-thru voting and extended voting hours. Republicans across the state argue that these innovations – which were primarily used by officials in Harris County, home to Houston, during the pandemic – opened the door to voter fraud.
James Slattery, senior attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, said voters of color and shiftworkers benefited the most from these voting methods last year.
“And so you can see the bans on these forms of voting as a direct attack on voters of color in particular,” he said in an interview over the summer.
In addition, the law expands what supporters of poll observers can observe during elections and gives them new protections.
what not in the new law
Texas Democrats ultimately lost the battle over election law, but Slattery says walkouts and quorum breaks have effectively made the measure less restrictive.
“If someone asked me, ‘Were the quorum breaks worth it?’ I absolutely think so, “he said,” and the situation for voters in Texas would be much worse if it hadn’t happened. “
For example, the provisions that would have restricted voting on Sundays – when black church members often go to the polls – and the sections that would have facilitated the annulment of the elections are not part of the final law.
Both of these provisions would have been passed had the Democrats not stepped out the first time in May. And the sections were so controversial that even Republicans walked away from them, even though they were prepared to vote for them.
Democrats, however, belatedly lost a key point regarding illegal voting.
There are two high-profile cases of illegal voting in Texas, including that of Crystal Mason, who was released from federal prison but was unable to vote as she was still on probation. She said she didn’t know and voted.
The provision – which enjoyed bipartisan support – would attempt to prevent more people from unknowingly finding themselves in this situation, but it was removed by the conference committee because the bill’s sponsor, Senator State Republican Bryan Hughes said it was too wide.
The arguments for and against the new law
Texas Republicans applaud the new law. Hughes says it is an effort to make elections more secure.
“How much fraud is acceptable? Nothing. How much deletion is OK? Nothing. This is why Senate Bill 1 makes it easier to vote and makes cheating more difficult, ”he said.
GOP lawmakers say the new law addresses the concerns of their constituents about voter fraud – even though actual cases of voter or voter fraud are extremely rare in Texas or elsewhere.
Slattery, along with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said the Republican-led measures do nothing to make elections safer in Texas and instead reinforce false claims by Trump and his allies that the 2020 election was stolen. .
“There is no electoral security benefit to almost any of these provisions,” he said. “Everything is at the service of the big lie and enshrines the big lie even more in the laws of this most restrictive state in the land. “
Democrats, meanwhile, continue to look to Congress for help, crafting a comprehensive federal solution with nationwide voting standards.
This effort is stuck on Capitol Hill.