The Texas legislature has received a wave of major pushback in recent weeks due to the passing of multiple bills including Senate Bill 8, and most recently Senate Bill 1. The latest, placing aggressive restrictions on voting on the local and state level.
The bill, also known as the “Election Integrity Protection Act of 2021,” is a 76-page law that bans voting initiatives such as drive-thru and 24-hour voting. These concepts were first introduced in Harris County by Mayor Sylvester Turner, Judge Lina Hildago, the newly appointed Elections Administrator, Isabel Longoria, and County Clerk Chris Hollins.
The new law, signed by Governor Greg Abbott, will drastically change the landscape for the upcoming election season, giving more control to partisan poll watchers, and increasing the difficulty for voters of color. SB1 sets specific times for early voting, adds additional requirements for mail-in voting, as well as potential felony charges for sending unsolicited mail-in ballots.
These new legislations are making Texas “one of the most difficult states to vote in,” according to Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization that advocates for equality and justice. Founded in 1999, the organization has played an integral role in creating an “inclusive and just democracy,” according to the website.
“We are up against the most vicious backlash against voters of color we have experienced in decades. This not only is a disservice to voters, but it sets a dangerous model for other states,” Dianis says in a statement on the new legislation.
The state of Texas had record voter turnouts in the 2018 election and set the bar even higher when more than nine million people made it to the polls ahead of the 2020 elections. The Election Integrity Act can potentially unravel those extensive voting efforts put in place, crippling those voters who felt empowered casting their votes in recent elections.
“We should be...continuing to encourage more voter participation rather than limit or cheat voters,” says Director of the Power and Democracy Program at the Advancement Project, Jorge Vasquez. “State and federal laws should uniformly protect the right to vote and promise voter participation across the United States, regardless of where you live.”
While SB1 passed here in Texas, there’s also federal legislation on the table to counteract the impact of the law, such as H.R. 4, also known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that combats voter suppression and protects all Americans’ right to vote.
For more information on the Advancement Project’s efforts to combat voter suppression, visit their website.