The battle over voting rights in Texas has reached a fevered pitch. As reported in ABC News, “Previously, legislation addressing the Republican-backed issue failed to meet a critical deadline in May when House Democrats staged a walkout to break quorum and prevented a final vote on the sweeping election bill, Senate Bill 7. [SB 7]” Meanwhile the Governor of the Lone State State, Greg Abbot, remains committed, stating, “Without having integrity in our elections, none of the other stuff in the democratic process really matters.”
According to My RGV News, “Abbott began the latest session with a show of strength, announcing that his campaign was now sitting on $55 million heading into the midterm elections, setting yet another record for a Texas governor. He said the GOP-controlled Legislature was ready to get his agenda passed.”
SB 7 would impose seeping and dramatic changes to the way Texans Vote. These are some of the features of the bill:
- Ban after-hours voting.
- Prohibit ballot drop boxes and drive-through voting centers.
- Mandate all weekday early voting take place sometime between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., though draft language would further limit Sunday early voting to a maximum between the hours of 1 p.m. and 9 p.m.
- Make it illegal for elections officials to send applications to vote by mail to people who did not request one.
- Bar counties from helping facilitate the distribution of unsolicited ballot requests.
- Require voters requesting absentee ballot to provide their driver’s license number or Social Security number on both their request for a ballot and their return envelope containing their ballot.
- Impose $1,000-a-day fines on local election officials who do not follow prescribed procedures to update their voter rolls, and criminal penalties on election workers who obstruct poll-watchers.
Democrats see the law as another measure to restrict voting. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat and a former U.S. representative responded to the efforts to launch SB7: “This is the single greatest coordinated attack on democracy in our lifetimes, and perhaps in the life of this country,” declared, echoing the party’s contention that the Republican bills would suppress access to the polls, particularly for members of minority groups and low-income residents.”
Republicans pushed back. Bryan Hughes, the Republican chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, framed the issue this way: “We all want to work toward a better election process that’s safe and accessible, and that’s what Senate Bill 7 does. Unfortunately, this one’s become bitterly partisan. It’s become fashionable to say that Texas is the hardest state in which to vote, and that’s just baseless.” And Vice President Kamala Harris slammed the proposal as “attacking the right to vote.”
Whether Texas Democrats have enough political strength to block the legislation remains to be seen.
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