Texas Republicans should instead abandon a bill for which ignorance or malice is the only plausible explanations. The legislation would make it a felony for an election official to offer a voter an unsolicited absentee ballot application. It would further restrict which people qualify to vote absentee, even though Texas already has irrationally restrictive standards. It would eliminate safeguards meant to prevent election officials from mistakenly tossing absentee ballots based on dubious signature-matching issues. It would crimp Sunday voting in a way that would make it difficult for Black churches to run “Souls to the Polls” events. It would crack down on anyone transporting more than two non-relatives to a polling place. It would ban drive-through voting, temporary voting sites and 24-hour early voting. It would make it dangerously easy for state judges to overturn election results. And it would empower partisan poll watchers, encouraging them to hassle election officials and voters.
It is obvious at whom these provisions are aimed: Houston’s Harris County, a populous, diverse metropolis trending increasingly Democratic. Harris last year used many of the turnout-encouraging strategies that the bill would ban. The new restrictions on absentee voting, on top of the severe limits the state already has, are a direct result of former president Donald Trump’s lie that the voting method is fatally fraud-prone — and the related fact that Democrats embraced mail-in balloting during the pandemic.
There is no good argument for any of it. Texas saw no major irregularities in the absentee or the in-person vote last year. The biggest problem was that state leaders refused to accommodate voters seeking to avoid close contact with strangers at polling places during the pandemic, fighting hard, for example, to deny them the opportunity to vote by mail. In fact, no state saw substantial fraud, and there is no legitimate doubt about the results. After a high-turnout, secure, fraud-free and smooth election, no reasonable person could conclude that voting needs to be harder to ensure election integrity. High turnout should be celebrated — and expanded upon. It is still too hard to vote, especially in Texas.
Republicans are instead adding all sorts of needless restrictions, because they calculate that they will discourage more Democrats than Republicans from voting, and because they have cultivated among their base the poisonous lie that Democrats stole the 2020 vote, to the point that they must now legislate as though this fiction is real.
Texas Republicans should not escape the opprobrium they are due. Between now and the legislature’s special session, Texas leaders, businesses and ordinary citizens should demand that Republicans drop their anti-American bill.