Texas-based companies and business leaders asked state lawmakers to reject two proposed bills that would change voting procedures. The bills come from Republican leaders seeking to limit voter fraud. Fair Elections Texas and other coalitions claim they restrict voter’s rights and harm business.
“We believe that Texas elections should be convenient, transparent, and secure,” the group wrote on their website. “We also believe a strong Texas economy includes fostering diverse, inclusive workplaces and communities around the state.”
Several Republican-led states have passed similar legislation since the 2020 election, where voter fraud was a central talking point as President Trump questioned the election’s legitimacy.
“Biden can only enter the White House as President if he can prove that his ridiculous ‘80,000,000 votes’ were not fraudulently or illegally obtained,” President Trump wrote in a Tweet.
Laws to prevent voter fraud are popular amongst the Republican base, but Democrats have opposed the measures they’ve taken to address it. Amongst the complaints are that these types of laws limit early voting, restrict voter’s access to mail-in ballots, change polling locations, and that poll watchers gain too much power.
The Texas Senate version does limit early voting. Senate Bill 7 Section 85.005(c) states a voting location should be open “for [
at least] 12 hours on each weekday.”
Throughout the bill, the phrase “at least” has been struck out. The hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. remain as before, but now larger counties are no longer allowed to open early or stay open later.
Opponents claim that larger counties need to stay open longer to guarantee people can vote.
Article II of SB7 adds multiple subsections on obtaining mail-in ballots. Most of it is about providing proper documentation to apply under the grounds of disability.
SB7 Section 2.04(b)(1) states that applications need to be accompanied with “written documentation from the United States Social Security Administration or the United States Department of Veterans Affairs evidencing that the applicant has been determined to have a disability.”
Opponents of revising mail-in ballots claim that these changes place an undue burden on voters.
Changing Voting Locations
The majority of the newly added text regarding locations revolves around drive-thru voting.
SB7 Article 3, section 3.01(c) states, “A polling place may not be located in a tent or other temporary moveable structure or in a facility primarily designed for motor vehicles. No voter may cast a vote from inside a motor vehicle unless the voter meets the requirements of Section 64.009.”
Opponents of changes to voting locations assert that they make finding the correct polling location difficult, voting lines longer, and ultimately target counties with larger populations that typically have more Democratic voters.
While these bills aim to limit fraud by standardizing the hours polling locations are open, requiring official documentation for mail-in ballots, and eliminating drive-thru voting, changes to poll watchers see more changes. Both the House and Senate bills mention poll watchers more than 20 times.
Most of the additions regarding poll watchers link to typical procedures but were revised to give them fewer restrictions.
SB 7 Section 3.03(a) states, “a watcher is entitled to observe any activity conducted at the location at which the watcher is serving. A watcher is entitled to sit or stand [
conveniently] near enough to see and hear the election officers conducting the observed activity.”
Most of the language around the poll watchers focuses on making sure they can witness all procedures and verify there is no fraud.
Opponents to these types of changes fear that partisan people could staff polling locations and sway election results.
There are many modifications in these bills beyond those mentioned above. Most of them are debated by both sides. Republicans argue they are needed to fight fraud, and Democrats say that these changes violate rights.
Each bill is up for a vote on Thursday. If they pass, the senate and the house will reconcile the differences to create a final version to submit to voting.