Texas Legislature considers new, more restrictive election laws

HOUSTON – Texas’ already restrictive voting laws may become even stricter.

The Senate State Affairs Committee heard arguments Friday concerning Senate Bill 7, one of several Republican-led election measures this legislative session.

Gov. Greg Abbott, during his visit to Houston last week, said he plans to support the proposed laws, such as SB7 and HB6, to crack down on voter fraud and protect voter integrity.

There has been no evidence of voting fraud, said political science professor Mark Jones of Rice University.

“There isn’t any evidence of that but the belief is very strong and thereby we have a lot of pressure among Republican primary voters and Republicans in general for their elected officials to do something about election fraud,” Jones said.

Jones said the Republican Party could seek to benefit from the proposed bills in future elections.

“Republican officeholders will want to make it as conducive to Republican victories rather than Democratic victories and one way to do that is to prevent places like Harris County from making it too easy to vote,” Jones added. “The easier it is to vote in Harris County the greater the democratic turnout is likely to be statewide.”

Harris County extended voting hours added drive-thru voting and proactively sent out mail-in ballots during the 2020 election cycle which lead to record voter turnout. The proposed election bills in the Texas Legislature would do away with them all.

“Communities of color were using these, these new aspects more and it’s not a coincidence that the legislature is now targeting those things that communities of color were using more,” said Tommy Buser-Clancy, senior staff attorney for ACLU Texas.

Buser-Clancy said the proposed measures would suppress the votes of minorities, the elderly, and the disabled. The ACLU attorney also accused Attorney General Ken Paxton of inflating the number of voter fraud cases his office in inflating. Paxton recently told the House Election Committee that his office was looking into 500 election integrity cases.

“We looked at the data from the attorney general’s own office and what we saw was that the number was nowhere near that. It’s about 40 something,” Buser-Clancy said.

Buser-Clancy is urging voters who oppose the election changes being discussed at the State Capitol to contact their legislators to try to kill the bills.

Jones said he does not expect all the election laws to pass, only some of them.