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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Texans cannot tolerate resurgence of voter suppression

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Civil Rights March on Washington

On May 7, House Bill 6, or HB 6, passed along partisan lines in the Texas House of Representatives by a margin of 78-64. HB 6 is complementary to the recently passed Senate Bill 7, or SB 7. These bills have come under heavy scrutiny for adding new impediments to voting accessibility in Texas. 

Texas is already ranked as the most restrictive state for voting in the United States in an analysis done by Northern Illinois University. Tx Elects reported that Texas also ranks as the fifth worst state for voter turnout, up from third worst in past elections. You’d think reducing the number of voters would be the last thing our state wants.

Republican legislators claim these bills would curb voter fraud and preserve the “purity of the ballot box,” according to HB 6. There are some problems with that claim. For one, there has never been any evidence of widespread voter fraud in any U.S. election. Voter fraud occurs at a rate between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. Other studies have found voter fraud is “five times less likely than getting hit by lightning.” 

In 2020, only 16 prosecutions of voter fraud were resolved by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, despite his office dedicating more than 22,000 staff hours to the crusade. All of the cases involved incorrect addresses on voter registration forms and none of the perpetrators received jail time.

It’s clear voter fraud is not and has never been an issue in Texas. Republican lawmakers gave the real game away with one particular phrase. HB 6 opens with, “A bill to be entitled an act relating to election integrity and preservation of the purity of the ballot box.” Throughout history, the word “purity” has rarely been used with good intentions. This sentiment is just as true in Texas. 

The phrase “purity of the ballot box” comes from the Texas Constitution. Post-Reconstruction, lawmakers used this clause to refuse Black Texans their right to vote and established the precedent of all-White election primaries. There’s a phrase for what’s being planned in Texas and nearly every other state: voter suppression. HB 6 and SB 7 are callbacks to Texas’s history of Jim Crow laws and are a revival of policies intended to deliver separate and unequal treatment for Texans based on race. 

The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities have also criticized these bills for disenfranchising disabled people. The bill requires a doctor’s note for mail-in voting and mandates confusing documentation for individuals attempting to assist disabled voters. HB 6 allows for criminal prosecution of those found to be assisting voters without proper documentation. 

A March poll found that 81 percent of Texans believe disabled voters should have access to assistance in casting their ballots. The same poll found that only 27 percent and 18 percent of Texans favored felonizing providing assistance and providing assistance to three or more voters, respectively.  

SB 7 also outlaws drive-thru voting and limits the amount of time for early voting to take place. One measure restricts all counties with over one million population to specific polling locations based on a formula, limiting the number and choice of voting locations. All of the 70 or so smaller counties using countywide voting would remain free to vote how they have in the past. These policies are specifically aimed at voting practices in Harris County, which the state tried and failed to repeal in 2020.

Republicans cannot claim to be the party of small government and then go on to use state power to target and attack voting rights in cities like Houston. Republican legislators are trying to turn Texas into a state where any votes that aren’t cast for them are considered fraudulent.

Legislators worked on HB 6 until 3 a.m. Friday, revising much of the bill’s language and reducing its impediments to voter access. Unfortunately, these changes may mean very little. Once the bill goes to the conference committee, current amendments could be dropped and the original restrictive policies could be added back to match SB 7. Regardless of any changes, the bill’s intent would still be to exclude Texans from voting in order to benefit politicians at the polls. 

Texas Republicans should be ashamed. HB 6 and SB 7 aren’t fit for a developed, democratic nation. These bills are draconian and fascistic, plain and simple. Even if one thinks, “I’ve never had trouble voting in Texas, so it must not be an issue,” we’ve seen through practice that these kinds of policies unjustly restrict the number of people able to participate in our democracy. The consequences of our state legislature’s actions are real. The only fraud occurring is the blatant suppression being planned by Republican legislators. 

Most Texans are disgusted by the future these bills create. We cannot stand for such a blatant and egregious attack on our democratic principles and liberties. We need to stand up to state legislators and tell them, loud and clear, that dirty tricks and intolerance will not be accepted by the people of Texas.   

Zachary Freeman is an anthropology junior and columnist for The Battalion.
 

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