On January 6, 2021, MAGA extremists stormed our U.S. Capitol to steal an election and destroy our democracy. In our State Capitol, it’s Republican extremists inside the building and serving in the Legislature who – with the full-throated support of Greg Abbott – are proposing a series of extreme and discriminatory election bills intended to subvert our democracy by rewriting state law to win elections they might otherwise lose. Any talk of battling voter fraud is a lie to give cover. Texas Republicans are planning to withdraw from a national program proven to help battle election fraud. Facts and fair analysis reveal a silent insurrection designed to undermine the will of voters before, during, and after elections.
Attacks on Individual Voters and Ability to Cast a Ballot
Republicans are again taking direct aim at individual Texas voters. Some proposals severely restrict the ability to cast a ballot and others make felony offenses out of actions more likely to be errors or misunderstandings than any intent to vote illegally. It all adds to the broader Republican strategy in Texas to abandon any effort to expand their support among Texans but, instead, hold power by keeping voter turnout artificially low overall while specifically targeting voter suppression efforts at minority voters and young and old voters of all ethnicities.
Outlaw Vote-by-Mail for Texas Seniors (SB 1338): Lt. Governor Dan Patrick ally and MAGA Republican, State Senator Bob Hall (SD2- Rockwall), has proposed a major new restriction that will make it illegal for Texans 65 years of age or older to vote by mail without claiming disability or absence from home county. Millions of Texas seniors regularly vote by mail. It has been legal and encouraged for decades. This egregious restriction on voting will negatively impact senior citizens in every corner of our state.
Penalize Voting Violations the Same as Sexual Assault and Manslaughter (SB 2): Dan Patrick has already rammed one of his top priorities through the State Senate – making even unintentional instances of illegal voting felonies and raising the potential penalty up to 20 years in prison – the same level as sexual assault, manslaughter, and other violent crimes against persons. Widespread or intentional instances of voter fraud are the rarest of crimes, and Republican leaders know it. Their purpose behind SB2 is not to reduce voter fraud, it is to create a sense of danger and risk around voting with the intent to keep turnout low.
Strip Texans from Voter Rolls (SB 260): MAGA Republican Senator Lois Kolkhorst (SD18 – Brenham) is moving to strip voters from the rolls who have not voted in the previous 25 months (the last two consecutive general elections). Even voters who are properly registered and otherwise in exact compliance with Texas law would be removed from active voter rolls and disqualified from casting a ballot.
Show-Me-Your-Papers Voter Registration (SB 1600): MAGA Extremist Senator Brian Hughes – author of the abortion bounty hunter bill and the Jim Crow-style voting changes made in 2021 – now intends to limit voter registration by forcing proof of citizenship before registering to vote. Voting by non-citizens in Texas or anywhere else is extremely rare. Again, the intention is not to stop illegal voting, it is to create roadblocks for individuals making it harder and thus less likely that they will register even if clearly eligible.
Ending County-Wide Voting on Election Day (SB 990): The ability to cast a ballot at any polling place within a county has proven to be successful and highly popular – which has clearly alarmed Texas Republicans. In another move to suppress votes and create more possibilities for unintentional mistakes that could be prosecuted as felonies, Senator Bob Hall’s bill would eliminate countywide polling places on election day.
Attacks on Democratic Process
Unlike recent Presidential elections or in Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada, no Democrat has won a close race in Texas, so Republicans here haven’t tried to overturn a statewide election. But Republicans are losing major races in big Texas counties and know that the success of Democrats in large urban and exurban counties may lead to statewide Democratic wins sooner rather than later. So, in Trump-like MAGA fashion, Texas Republicans are laying the groundwork to usurp control and overturn the will of voters in large urban counties.
Overturning Fair Elections (SB 1993): One of the most blatant anti-democratic election measures in the country would allow the Texas Secretary of State to investigate elections, cancel the results, order a new election. It pairs with SB 823 which calls for the appointment of an overseer to take over the job of the county election administrator. Keep in mind that the Texas Secretary of State is not elected but is appointed by – so essentially works for – the Governor. Cancelling elections to order a revote when the results aren’t suitable and putting hand-picked cronies in to assure the result wanted is nothing short of Soviet-style authoritarianism.
Voting Police (SB 220): State Senator Paul Bettencourt (SD7 – Houston) was forced to leave county office a decade ago following his implication in a discriminatory voter registration controversy. Now Bettencourt is back pushing for Election Marshals, a type of voter police force the investigated voter fraud accusations but be overseen and directed by partisan politicians. It’s modeled after the authoritarian election police established in Florida by Ron DeSantis.
Eliminate College Campus Voter (HB 2390): Rep. Carrie Isaac (HD73 – Dripping Springs) is moving to outlaw polling places on college campuses. There is no evidence of significant fraud or even voter irregularities on college-based polling locations. The effort by MAGA Republicans is clearly intended to suppress young voters that increasingly are rejecting the MAGA Trump Republican candidates who currently dominate Texas Republican-held offices.
We’ve reached the point in Texas that authoritarian, anti-democratic voting laws are not just expected from Republican leaders, they are demanded by the MAGA forces they answer to. It is important that these outrageous attacks on American democracy not be accepted by the media or the rest of us as just Republicans doing what Republicans do. Commenting on one of these bills, voting rights attorney and Texas election law expert, Chad Dunn, said, “When these ideas are first floated, people are aghast…But he cautioned that the lawmakers who sponsor such bills tend to bring them back over and over again…Then, six, eight, 10 years later, these terrible ideas become law.”