Texas among numerous states tightening election laws

Like legislatures in numerous states, Texas Republicans are introducing a barrage of bills intended to tighten election laws in the Lone Star State following the 2020 presidential election, according to reports. ​

And Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed he will sign the legislation as soon as it arrives on his desk.

Abbott and state Republicans focused on Harris County, which includes heavily Democratic Houston, for criticism over its efforts to send out applications to request a mail-in ballot from every registered voter and allow drive-thru voting, and said the GOP legislation would ban those initiatives.

“Whether it’s the unauthorized expansion of mail-in ballots or the unauthorized expansion of drive-thru voting, we must pass laws to prevent election officials from jeopardizing the election process,” Abbott said at a news conference Monday, the Texas Tribune reported.

He encouraged state lawmakers to get the voting bills “to my desk so I can sign it.”

Harris County officials shot back at Abbott.​

“These kinds of attempts to confuse, to intimidate, to suppress are a continuation of policies we’ve seen in this state since Reconstruction,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. “It is a continuation as well of the big lie that’s being peddled by some far-right elements that the election in 2020 was somehow not true and should be overturned.”

Spurred on by claims from former President Donald Trump and some Republicans that fraud was widespread in the 2020 election, Texas is​ working on measures that would clamp down on rolling voting before voting day.​

But​ former Attorney General Bill Barr said an investigation by the Justice Department found no evidence of extensive fraud, and arguments claiming voting irregularities pressed by the Trump campaign in state and federal courts were largely tossed.

The actions in Texas mirror those of other state legislatures to curtail voting, including limiting the amount of time mail-in ballots can be received to be counted, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan institute that is keeping track of the measures nationwide.

It said that legislatures in 43 states have introduced 253 restrictive bills.

In Pennsylvania, for example, where the state Supreme Court allowed ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted up to three days later, one proposal would require all ballots not received the day of the election to be rejected.

Temporary employees of the City Commissioner's office wearing protective masks count votes at a convention center for the 2020 Presidential election in Philadelphia.
Temporary employees of the City Commissioner’s office wearing protective masks count votes at a convention center for the 2020 Presidential election in Philadelphia.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Other legislation would impose stricter ID requirements, limit pro-voter registration policies, allow for more voter roll purges, and do away with no-excuse absentee ballots. 

Many of these measures were introduced or expanded during the coronavirus pandemic when voters expressed concerns about their safety at the polls.

The legislation to curb voting in Texas comes even as the Brennan Center analysis of its voting laws in 2020 found that it has the strictest voting laws in the country.

Republican state ​Sen. Bryan Hughes, ​the chairman of the State Affairs Committee, introduced a 27-page omnibus bill ​that includes new restrictions and penalties, saying 2020 just gave Texas lawmakers even more incentive to push more restrictive legislation.

“This was already in process, but then the 2020 election was so in the national spotlight, and so many people have questions, so many people have concerns,” he told NBC News. “I would say that has raised the profile of the issue.”  

Democrats in Texas and in other states ​are attempting to counter Republican initiatives by trying to loosen voting access but have an uphill battle, NBC reported. 

Hughes said legislatures have a duty to ensure that elections are secure.

“It’s important that the system be fair, but it’s equally important that people know it’s fair, so they’ll participate, so they’ll vote,” ​he said.

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