Republican-led state legislatures have openly been waging war on voting access in the wake of their presidential candidate’s defeat in the 2020 elections.
Texas, which tried its very hardest during those elections to curb voters’ access to the ballot box, has now come through with its own slate of voter suppression legislation.
On Monday, Republican lawmakers and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced over two dozen new bills that they’ve introduced to limit early voting, enact more barriers against mail-in voting, require county election officials to purge voter rolls more often or face fines and more measures that they transparently admitted are aimed at correcting what they see as the failures of the 2020 elections.
Gov. Greg Abbott and the Republican sponsors of two of those bills on Monday identified the bogeyman that inspired the legislative pushes: Harris County, the state’s largest county and the home of Houston. Democrats have made major gains in recent elections in what was once a conservative-leaning area, helping the party narrow the GOP’s margins in statewide elections and giving Republicans incentive to seek to limit votes there.
In a news conference in Houston, Abbott, state Rep. Briscoe Cain and state Sen. Paul Bettencourt criticized Harris County’s 2020 moves to try to expand access to the ballot box amid the coronavirus pandemic. The county kept early voting locations open for 24 hours and opened drive-through polling places. County officials also sought to send mass mail-in ballot applications, but were blocked from doing so by the Texas Supreme Court.
“We must pass laws to prevent election officials from jeopardizing the election process,” Abbott said after detailing Harris County’s handling of the 2020 election.
As a reminder—there was absolutely no evidence of widespread fraud jeopardizing the last general elections, despite the efforts of Trump—aided by scores of Republicans, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton—to unearth something they could use to support their bogus claim that the election was stolen from him.
That hasn’t stopped GOP legislators from shamelessly pushing for a raft of laws that reflect an enraged backlash to the record-breaking turnout in the last election, which gave Democrats the White House and Senate—in large part through the votes of Black people.
The proposed bills in Texas include one that would cut early voting at 9 p.m. The Republican behind that proposal, Rep. Jared Patterson explained ridiculously, that he introduced it because “my momma always said nothing good happens after midnight,” and there was “opportunity for fraud when no one is looking” in Harris County. It’s basically an admission that the measure is a pre-emptive attack on a problem he can’t prove exists.
Ridiculous arguments to defend the deliberate voting restrictions were also forthcoming from Texas state Sen. Briscoe Cain, who tried to redefine the meaning of voter suppression on Monday.
“You know, the only form of voter suppression is when an illegitimate voter, an ineligible voter, casts a ballot. When an ineligible voter casts their ballot, what they’re actually doing is they’re silencing the voice of an American citizen, of someone that is eligible to vote. It’s wrong and we should stop it,” Cain said.
Cain has introduced a house bill in Texas that would ban the mailing of absentee ballot request forms.
Abbott himself says reducing the “potential for voter fraud” is a top priority “emergency item” in the Texas legislature this year. The idea is clearly to limit access to voting for everyone, part of a concerted effort Republicans are carrying out across the country.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo called the new bills “essentially a poll tax.”
“Obviously, these Republicans are hoping their work is going to disenfranchise mostly Democrats,” she told CNN. “But the truth of the matter is, it’s going to disenfranchise both parties. And what they’re proposing is absolutely tragic and reminiscent of the worst of what we’ve seen in Texas and across the South since Reconstruction.”