The Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 7 on April 1, which will add further restrictions to the state’s already restrictive voting rules. The bill will limit extended early voting hours, prohibit drive-thru voting and make it illegal for local election officials to send qualified voters applications to vote by mail.
The Shorthorn editorial board condemns the passing of this bill. Texas already has some of the strictest voter laws in the U.S. Not only will this bill make it more difficult for voters to cast their ballots, but groups like the AARP, the League of Women Voters and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have raised concerns that it targets older people, people of color and people with disabilities.
The bill will require a doctor’s note as proof for people with disabilities wanting to vote by mail, although Republicans signaled during the debate that the language could change, according to the Associated Press.
More Americans cast their votes during the 2020 presidential election than any election in U.S. history. Nearly one million of the votes cast in Texas were mail-in ballots. Democratic state Sen. Carol Alvarado said more than 127,000 people around Houston used drive-thru voting during the early voting period in 2020, and more than half of that number were Black, Latino or Asian.
Now isn’t the time to restrict voting. Early voting for Arlington mayor will be held from April 19 to 27, and election day is May 1. The special election to fill the seat representing Texas’ 6th Congressional District will also happen May 1.
Texas did not expand mail-in ballot eligibility requirements during the pandemic like many other states. Individuals needed to be over 65 years old, have a disability or be out of the county to be eligible. The risk of coronavirus infection was not a sufficient reason, according to The Texas Tribune.
Restricting mail-in voting as the pandemic subsides but not during the lockdown when voter turnout was at a record high suggests the Republican Party is worried about the potential increase in civic engagement from Americans moving forward.
Senate Democrats argued the legislation makes “wholesale changes to address isolated — and rare — incidents of fraud,” at the expense of voting initiatives successful in reaching voters of color.
Preventing rare instances of fraud is not a good justification for more restrictive voting measures. This most recent legislation aims to establish a tighter grip on voting access and filter out votes that do not favor the Republican Party — mostly people of color, older voters and people with disabilities.
The Shorthorn editorial board disagrees with the Senate’s decision to pass this bill. It is an attempt to suppress voters and tip the political scales in a particular direction. We encourage voters to inform themselves of the latest voting options and to reach out to lawmakers to express their disapproval of Senate Bill 7.
The Shorthorn Editorial Board is made up of opinion editor Katecey Harrell; Editor-in-Chief Cecilia Lenzen; associate news editor Spencer Brewer; Samantha Knowles, life and entertainment editor; sports editor Adrian Rodriguez; news reporter Thevnin Rumende; and copy editor Jill Bold. Rodriguez was not present for this editorial decision, and managing editor Angelica Perez filled in.