Opinion: LWV-Comal Area Says HB 3,SB 1 Create Barriers to Voting Freedom
by Jerrie Champlin
President, League of Women Voters-Comal Area
Texas has some of the most-restrictive voting laws in the nation and not coincidentally, low voter turnout.
Voter turnout has shown some improvement in recent years as Texas moved from 48th in the nation in 2014 with 28% turnout, to 42nd in 2018 with 45.6%, and 41st in 2020, when 60.4% of the voting eligible population actually cast a ballot.
Rather than celebrating an increased participation of citizens in our democracy, some Texas legislators are attempting to restrict voting even more with bills like House Bill (HB) 3 and Senate Bill (SB) 1, which were introduced in the current Special Session of the Texas legislature.
Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have admitted that no substantial voter fraud was found in the 2020 election, but some politicians have continued to raise doubt about the integrity of our elections to support these attempts to further restrict voting.
According to records from the Texas Attorney General and Secretary of State, there were a total of 534 offenses charged to 154 people (some had multiple offenses) for either mail ballot fraud, assistance fraud or illegal voting from 2004 to March 2021 and another 510 pending prosecutions out of 93,853,678 ballots cast (that’s 1,044 out of almost 94 million or less than 0.000012 percent).
Of particular concern are provisions in HB3 and SB1 that would erode our freedom to vote in the following ways:
- By empowering partisan poll-watchers to intimidate, harass and disrupt voters while limiting the authority of election judges and workers to remove them. Even when a watcher violates election laws, poll watchers cannot be removed unless an election official personally witnessed the violation, and the poll watcher was already given a warning.
- By making vote-by-mail more difficult and by making the rejection of valid mail-in ballots easier while allowing signature-verification committee members to take home any notes including sensitive personal information. Prohibits election officials from distributing vote-by-mail applications unless specifically requested but allows political parties to distribute unsolicited applications.
- By criminalizing legitimate voter assistance for those with language barriers and voters with disabilities.
- By limiting local election officials’ and voters’ options by prohibiting certain polling locations, expansion of voting hours and mail in-ballot drop-offs, which were used in 2020 to make voting more accessible. No evidence of increased voter fraud supports these limitations.
Texans, like all Americans, want free and fair elections, and a process that protects their right to vote and makes voting accessible whether they live in a big city, small town or out in the country.
Our right to vote is the foundation of our representative democracy that guarantees that we all have a say in the decisions that impact our lives and that our elections reflect the will of the people.
HB3 and SB1 create barriers to our freedom to vote and we urge legislators to reject them.