Texas legislators in Austin, Texas joined the ranks of states passing restrictive voting bills as fall-out from the months following the presidential election where Trump and his followers falsely claimed voter fraud. No voter fraud has been found by any legal or governmental body, including the Justice Department, led at the time of the investigation by Trump appointees. The Texas House Bill is sponsored by Rep. Briscoe Cain, a Trump supporter.
SB 7 and HB 6 passed with no votes by Democrats, but with provisions added and removed by Democrats which make the bills less far reaching and discriminatory. For instance, the original bill would have made interfering with a Poll Watcher a felony, and moved polling stations away from minority districts.
All of which indicates the reason for passing such laws now is simply to limit voters access to voter registration, early voting, voting by mail, and drive-through voting. Without mail in and drive through voting in Houston and Austin, Texas, and other locations, many elderly and disabled people could not have voted during an election that took place during the upswing of COVID in October and November of 2020. Standing in line to vote was dangerous for those of us who did it pre-vaccine, even while distancing and wearing masks.
The extension of early voting, voting by mail, and drive-through voting was in large measure a component of the highest voter turn-out in over a century for the 2020 election. The second highest voter turn-out was in 2008.
In Texas, the 2020 presidential election had the highest voter turn-out in thirty years. Again, this was at a peak of the COVID pandemic, when it could easily have been assumed that people would stay home. Those who did stay home due to the pandemic, obviously benefitted by increased access to absentee, mail-in and extended early voting. Drive-through voting was an aid to anyone who wanted to limit exposure to others.
The Texas Legislature passed the bills during their current session in the Capitol Building in Austin, TX, to roll back that progress. Under HB 6, passed by the House, Texas counties, including Travis County, can no longer send unsolicited vote-by-mail applications. Harris County had sent them to all registered voters in the 2020 election, and Travis County sent them to all those over sixty-five years old. Anyone sixty-five and over can legally apply to vote by mail, but the bills would make it illegal for Travis County and all Texas counties to send out applications unsolicited.
SB 7 and HB 6 passed with no votes by Democrats, and with provisions added and removed by Democrats which make the bils less far reaching.
Both the original SB 7 and the original provisions of HB 6 were opposed by civil rights groups. Other provisions were objected to by voter rights advocates and activists committed to extending voter participation. Rep. Jasmine Crockett was quoted in The Texas Tribune in her remarks to the House.
"Let me tell you what suppression looks like — it looks like firing back at [Harris] County Judge Lina Hidalgo and former county clerk Chris Hollins who braved to increase access to the ballot box for all, and instead of applauding them for assisting and increasing the participation of Texans in the process, we filed this bill," said state Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas. "Suppression looks like Black, brown and disabled people telling you to your face that this policy will affect them in a negative way and allowing them to fall on deaf ears."