U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, doubled down on the claim that expanding voting by mail is not secure, saying it was like “playing with fire” in a conversation that aired Monday as part of the 2020 Texas Tribune Festival.
Republicans and President Donald Trump have repeatedly tried to sow doubt over the reliability of voting by mail, alleging it allows for widespread fraud.
During the interview with Politico’s Tim Alberta, Crenshaw raised concerns about voting practices in Pennsylvania and Nevada, falsely saying that Pennsylvania was sending unsolicited ballots to voters.
Afterward, a spokesman said Crenshaw meant to say that was happening in Colorado and Nevada. Crenshaw suggested in the interview that he worried that some ballots might be mailed to the wrong addresses, inviting fraud. Colorado has sent ballots in past elections and officials there have identified only a tiny amount of instances of fraud.
In June, The Washington Post analyzed data collected in five elections in three states, including Colorado, that proactively sent ballots to voters in 2016 and 2018. Just 372 possible cases of double voting or voting on behalf of dead people were identified, the Post reported. That amounted to 0.0025% of votes cast.
“But we win elections by small percentages, it is so important that we’re able to trust the outcome of this election,” Crenshaw said, noting he won his 2018 primary runoff by 155 votes. “So that’s why I pushed back so hard on this point.”
In Texas, the state’s Republican leadership has resisted expanding voting by mail, making it one of the few states not to do so during the coronavirus pandemic. The state challenged a Harris County plan to send applications for mail-in ballots — but not ballots themselves — to all its voters, while GOP leaders are still urging their voters to fill out applications. Last week, Harris County’s plan was cleared by an intermediate appeals court, but it remains on hold until the Texas Supreme Court can rule.
Texans can vote by mail if they are 65 or older, outside of their county during the election, confined to jail but otherwise eligible to vote, or cite a disability “that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on Election Day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health.”
Crenshaw suggested he supported voting by mail as it works in Texas.
“If you have to identify who you are, prove who you are and request that absentee ballot like we’re doing in Texas, that’s fine,” he said.
On immigration, the Houston lawmaker said he does want a path to citizenship for so-called “Dreamers,” the 12 million immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and remain here today under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
In 2019, Crenshaw voted against a bill by House Democrats that would have provided that pathway, saying in a Fox News Radio interview at the time that that bill went too far. In light of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last week, many worry DACA could be struck down should a conservative justice be nominated by Trump and confirmed by the U.S. Senate this fall.
“We do want a deal for Dreamers,” Crenshaw said Monday, adding that the deal should come with caveats, including congressional action on increasing border security, which he said aligns with the core center-right political beliefs of his constituents in his Houston-area district.
Crenshaw’s suburban district is a target for national Democrats this year, who are hoping to take advantage of shifting voting patterns. In 2000, President George W. Bush won the district by more than 100,000 votes. But Hillary Clinton carried the district by more than 60,000 votes in 2016. His opponent this year is prominent Houston attorney and Democratic fundraiser Sima Ladjevardian.
While Crenshaw said that “not everybody votes based on political platforms,” he identified a list of issues he said those voters prioritize, including personalized health care and safe communities, in addition to border security. Still, many of those voters may not vote for Donald Trump.
“It’s no secret that in the suburbs and especially amongst women, that they’re simply turned off by Donald Trump,” Crenshaw said, later adding, “They have a personal dislike for him.”