Politics

Texas Republicans Finalize Major Bill of Voting Limits


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 Texas’ in-person voter registration deadline 30 days before Election Day, a drastic reduction of polling stations in some parts of the state, strict voter identification laws, a limited and onerous absentee voting process, and a lack of early voting options.

In the preamble to the new bill, the authors appear to pre-emptively defend the legislation from criticism by Democrats and voting rights groups, stating that “reforms to the election laws of this state made by this Act are not intended to impair the right of free suffrage guaranteed to the people of Texas by the United States and Texas Constitutions, but are enacted solely to prevent fraud in the electoral process and ensure that all legally cast ballots are counted.”

In March, Keith Ingram, the director of elections in the Texas secretary of state’s office, testified that last year’s election in the state had been “smooth and secure.” He added, “Texans can be justifiably proud of the hard work and creativity shown by local county elections officials.”

Nonetheless, the bill includes a provision that could make overturning an election easier. Previously, Texas election law had stated that reversing the results of an election because of fraud accusations required proving that illicit votes had actually resulted in a wrongful victory. If the bill passes, the number of fraudulent votes required to do so would simply need to be equal to the winning vote differential; it would not matter for whom the fraudulent votes had been cast.

A day before the Texas bill emerged, a new report pointed to the vast sweep of Republicans’ nationwide effort to restrict voting.

As of May 14, lawmakers had passed 22 new laws in 14 states to make the process of voting more difficult, according to the report by the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute.

In last year’s election, while Republicans won Texas easily — Mr. Trump carried the state by more than 630,000 votes and the party maintained control of both chambers of the Legislature — turnout soared in cities and densely populated suburbs, which are growing increasingly Democratic. In Harris County, one of the biggest counties in the country, turnout jumped by nearly 10 percent.



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