As with bills passed in other states, voting rights groups said the new provisions in Texas, if passed, would be likely to disproportionately affect poorer people and those of color.
“They are intent on creating voting restrictions that reverse the trends that you’ve seen in Texas,” Gilberto Hinojosa, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party, said in an interview this month. “And they’re all geared around minorities in the sense that they are primarily affecting large urban areas that are where most of the people of color in this state live today.”
“What they’re trying to do is create a system that discourages people from actually going out to vote,” he said.
Republicans in the Legislature had defended the bill, falsely arguing that it contained no restrictions on voting and saying that it was part of a yearslong effort to strengthen election security in the state. Even so, they acknowledged that there was no widespread voting fraud last year in Texas, and the Republican secretary of state testified that the state’s election was “smooth and secure.”
“This isn’t about who won or who lost, it’s really to make the process better,” State Senator Bryan Hughes, one of the Republican sponsors of the bill, said in an interview this month. “We want to make the elections more accessible and more secure, make them smoother.”
Briscoe Cain, the sponsor of the bill in the House, said late Sunday that the bill was meant to ensure that “conduct of elections be uniform and consistent throughout the state, to reduce the likelihood of fraud and the conduct of elections, to protect the secrecy the ballot, promote voter access and ensure that all legally cast ballots are counted.”
Voting rights groups have long pointed to Texas as one of the hardest states in the country for voters to cast ballots. One recent study by Northern Illinois University ranked Texas last in an index measuring the difficulty of voting. The report cited a host of factors, including a drastic reduction of polling stations in some parts of the state and strict voter identification laws.
David Montgomery contributed reporting from Austin, Texas. Reporting was also contributed by Austin Ramzy and Anna Schaverien.