Texas voting restrictions bill signed into law

Greg Abbott in 2012.

On Tuesday, Sept. 7, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill Onea piece of legislation calling for numerous restrictions on voting in the stateinto law. 

The law restricts various aspects of the voting process.  

Drive-thru voting and 24-hour early voting sites have been banned, and early voting may only take place between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Drive-thru and 24-hour early voting locations were used intensively in 2020 in Harris County, which is home to Houston.

Harris County had also sought to send unsolicited voting applications out to all eligible voters last year, but was blocked from doing so by the Texas Supreme Court. With Senate Bill One, sending unsolicited voting applications is now a felony in Texas. 

Additional identification requirements have been added for those choosing to vote by mail. Those who mail in their ballot will have to provide the last four digits of their social security number or their driver’s license number. Mail-in voters will have to provide this identification information both on their absentee ballot application forms and on the envelope they use to send in their ballots. 

Those who are assisting voters with disabilities cast their ballots are now required to provide additional information as well, including their name, address, and relationship to the voter they assisted. This rule does not apply to voters’ caregivers. 

The law also affects partisan poll watchers. They will be given “free movement” at polling locations, but they cannot watch voters fill out their ballots. 

Under Senate Bill One, monthly checks of the voter rolls by the Texas Secretary of State’s office are now required. Additionally, local election officials must file a report of any possible improper ballots to the attorney general. 

The passage of this law comes after Donald Trump’s assertions that voter fraud occurred in the 2020 election, although there is no evidence to prove that widespread voter fraud occurred in Texas.

Republican supporters of the law feel that Senate Bill One will reinstate confidence in the validity of voting in Texas. 

"[There is] one thing that all Texans can agree [on], and that is that we must have trust and confidence in our elections,” said Governor Abbott at the bill’s signing ceremony. “The bill that I'm about to sign helps to achieve that goal." 

Many Democrats, on the other hand, feel that the bill is discriminatory towards voters of color and voters with disabilities.

Last July, Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives rushed to Washington D.C. to halt the legislation and to urge national legislators to create federal legislation protecting voters’ rights. 

However, when Governor Abbot called for another special session in August, enough Democratic representatives returned to Texas for the proceedings necessary for the bill to be passed.

Democrats and Texas civil rights groups have not given up on pushing back against the legislation. 

Several lawsuits have been filed challenging the controversial law, including three federal lawsuits aiming to thwart the law from taking effect on Dec. 3, 2021.

Several other states have already passed voting restrictions. Per fivethirtyeight.com, 52 new voting restrictions have been ratified in 21 separate states this year. 

Though Massachusetts and the majority of New England have not passed any voting restrictions, New Hampshire has passed two new voting laws. One law requires election officials to photograph voters who register on Election Day without providing identification, while the other allows election officials to remove voters from voter rolls with data collected by other states.

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