Republicans have searched high and low for real-world examples of voter fraud, which they claim is a national crisis, and they have come up with . . . Hervis Rogers, a 62-year-old Houston man who waited six hours to vote in the 2020 presidential primary election. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) ordered Mr. Rogers’s arrest for knowingly casting a ballot while on parole, despite the fact there is ample evidence he did not know he was ineligible. If convicted, Mr. Rogers would face a minimum sentence of two years and a maximum of 20 years.

It is revolting to single out an older Black man for what would be an excessive punishment even if he had more clearly committed the crime of which he is accused. But doing so accomplishes at least two things Republicans desire. It provides a concrete case of an ineligible individual voting — albeit one so minor it calls into question the corrupt GOP project to crack down on election fraud. Perhaps more importantly for Republicans, it sows doubt in minority communities about who is eligible to vote, and it signals to them that the government will provide no margin for forgiveness if they commit an error while trying in good faith to participate in the nation’s democracy, thereby discouraging them to cast ballots.

In that, Mr. Rogers’s arrest dovetails with a bill the GOP-controlled Texas legislature is attempting to advance this week, which would impose a raft of new rules and potential penalties on people at various points in the voting process. The bill would ban election workers from giving absentee ballot applications to people who have not requested them; it would crack down on people attempting to help others to vote; and it would slap criminal punishments on poll workers who do not follow rules concerning poll watchers. Texas’s ever-expanding web of rules and restrictions would not just limit the activities it explicitly prohibits; it would force election workers, volunteers and even friends of would-be voters to second-guess whether they should drive an acquaintance to the polls or ask a disruptive poll watcher to quiet down — in case Mr. Paxton decides to make a case out of it.

Other sections of the bill target measures Houston’s Harris County took last year to enable people to vote during the coronavirus pandemic; for example, the legislation would ban 24-hour voting and drive-through voting. Though the health crisis has somewhat eased — for now — there is little reason to eliminate these conveniences. All-night voting can enable shift workers to vote. Lawmakers can address concerns about maintaining ballot secrecy during drive-through voting in ways short of banning the practice, which allows people who do not want to enter an enclosed space or who cannot walk to cast ballots.

The Texas bill may not seem to represent a dramatic policy shift, let alone one that should prompt the walkout Texas Democratic lawmakers staged on Monday. Banning 24-hour voting, which many states fail to provide, would not represent the end of the franchise. Yet Texas was already one of the toughest states in which to cast a ballot, for no reason other than the political convenience of the Republicans in charge. Any fair-minded legislator would seek to ease voting, not conjure up excuses to make it harder. The direction of Texas’s anti-voting campaign, and the fig-leaf excuses with which Republicans justify it, reflect a lack of confidence in their own popularity — and a toxic disdain for democracy that should offend every American.