Earlier this week, Georgia lawmakers faced intense scrutiny for their desire to pass a restrictive voting bill known as SB 202. Heading into next week, Texas appears to be taking notes from the state of Georgia.
After seven hours of debate, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 7 by a vote of 18-13. Backed by Governor Greg Abbott, the bill would limit the early voting period and ban drive-thru voting. Adding on, Senate Bill 7 would make it illegal to proactively send vote-by-mail applications to eligible voters.
Support for the bill falls along party lines. Republican Texas Senator Bryan Hughes has argued that SB7 "standardizes and clarifies” voting rules so that “every Texan has a fair and equal opportunity to vote, regardless of where they live in the state.”
“Overall, this bill is designed to address areas throughout the process where bad actors can take advantage, so Texans can feel confident that their elections are fair, honest and open,” he told the Texas Tribune.
Pushing back against the bill, voting rights activists and Democratic lawmakers have raised issues about how this bill will negatively affect marginalized communities. Specifically, limiting drive-thru voting could very well downgrade Black and Hispanic voter turnout. Democratic State Senator Carol Alvarado has referred to Harris County analysis that showed more than half of drive-thru voters in November were Black and Hispanic.
“Knowing that, who are you really targeting?” Alvarado asked.
Limiting voting hours will also eliminate the 24-hour voting location in Harris County. In a county that is more than 40% Black and Hispanic, this will greatly impact the opportunities that voters of color have to vote. It will also limit the number of opportunities that first responders and overnight workers have to vote.
Also, Senate Bill 7 will allow poll watchers to record videos of voters receiving assistance while filling out their ballot. This could potentially target non-English speaking or reading voters who need assistance from family members or loved ones.
“It’s a strange, strange coincidence that all of these laws are being filed right now,” Texas Senator Royce West said.
“That’s all I’m saying.”
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