Texas’ ballot bill is not “Jim Crow 2.0,” and Democrats should like much of what is in it – Twin Cities
FORT WORTH, Texas – Count me among the cohort of conservative writers who quickly grew weary of claims that the 2020 election was illegitimate.
This was not the case. Allegations of massive, coordinated, multi-state fraud fell flat despite months of investigation and prosecution.
But Donald Trump’s failure to prove an election plot against him doesn’t mean that voter fraud isn’t happening enough to affect the election. Nor does it mean that standardizing electoral procedures and restoring pre-pandemic voting practices are unnecessary or repressive.
This is what some Texas lawmakers want you to believe. They dubbed the Texas electoral reform measure “voter suppression”, calling it “Jim Crow 2.0,” a name belied by the actual content of the bill.
House Democrats even left the chamber to deny Texas Republicans the quorum necessary to pass it.
They did it on their own, as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board pointed out, since the bill could come back in force in the special session.
But they have also undermined their own credibility by calling a bill that, with some tweaks, is largely flawless an “attack on democracy”.
For starters, it would bring voting procedures back to pre-COVID rules. Drive-thru and tent voting were still intended to be temporary, as was 24-hour advance voting, which was permitted in some counties in Texas.
The bill would require voters to request their own mail-in ballots and prohibit public officials from sending unsolicited ballots or nominations.
It would require voters to put a driver’s license number or other personal identifier on mail ballots, which meets the existing identification requirement for in-person voting.
This would increase the penalties for harvesting ballots, a tactic that disproportionately harms the elderly and vulnerable, and would require information from the person helping the voter to protect themselves from aid fraud.
This would increase the penalties for refusing to accept a poll observer for service.
This would ensure ballot security by requiring a paper trail and live broadcast of the vote count for large counties.
And that would standardize practices such as polling station opening hours. This would minimize confusion and, in some counties, actually increase the length of time polling stations are open on weekdays and weekends.
The bill’s most disturbing provision, apparently included in error, would prevent polling stations from opening before 1 p.m. on the last Sunday of the early poll. This could rightfully be seen as an attempt to reduce the participation of black churches and should be removed. The indications are that this will be the case.
Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke tried to gain traction on a provision that would allow judges to overturn election results. But this possibility would only exist if the number of votes cast illegally matched or exceeded the number needed to alter the outcome of an election, an unusual scenario.
The apoplexy around such arrangements is exaggerated, if you expect.
Republican-led election security efforts – even the most benign – are always presented as repressive. Saying it makes better cable TV, I guess.
But there are elements of this bill that Democrats should overwhelmingly support, not despite but because of the last election cycle.
Live streaming of the vote count, for example, would not only provide greater transparency about the sometimes mysterious process, it would potentially allow Democrats to push back against allegations of voter fraud by giving them real pictures of what is, or is not, event. Remember Georgia and that suitcase full of ballots?
The same goes for voter assistance protections. Democrats are concerned about the access of elderly and vulnerable populations that we know are susceptible to manipulation; they should also enthusiastically support efforts to ensure the integrity of their votes.
Republicans have their own demons to overcome when it comes to electoral reform. They would do well to remember that access and the integrity of ballots are not opposing forces.
The 2020 election proved that Republicans can do better among minority groups – look at Florida or the counties on the southern border of Texas – and that expanding the electorate, instead of just securing it, is a path towards victory.
In the post-Trump / post-pandemic era, there are many reasons to consider how electoral processes could be improved to do both.
With a special session coming up, it’s not too late for that to happen in Texas.