As Americans, we are given an opportunity to have our voice heard by voting. In Texas, the Governor and his Republican colleagues are trying to suppress that right to certain voters; primarily voters of color who tend to lean Democratic. On September 7, 2021, Senate Bill 1 was signed into law. This bill is a sweeping, 47-page renovation of Texas voting and election laws that grew by more than 14 pages thanks to Republican backed amendments. Texas has been criticized for the passage of Senate Bill 1, and has made it harder to vote than any other state.
new changes ahead...
Below you will find a summary of the changes that will go into effect before the 2022 primary elections. One of the most talked about laws is the Voter ID. This law has made national headlines as it discriminates against voters of color. Let’s take a closer look at what these changes mean and how they can potentially affect us.
Drive-thru Voting Ban
This method was slashed. This was used as a safety precaution in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Several counties used this method. Drive-thru voting was held under large tents and an ID was required before casting a vote. This method was a success in Harris County. 53% of voters in Harris County used the new method and were racial and ethnic minorities. Some of these locations were open for 24 hours. Republicans did not agree with this and claimed that poll watchers were not available to monitor. This method showed some popularity among voters.
New Regulations for Early Voting Hours
This new regulation extends the early voting hours from 6am-10pm. The bill also adds an extra hour of required early voting hours for local elections, moving it from eight hours to nine. Sunday voting hours increased and the new window will be from 9am-10pm.
Distribution of Mail-in Ballot Applications Ban
It will become a state jail felony for local election officials to send unsolicited applications to request a mail-in ballot. That same punishment applies to officials who approve the use of public funds “to facilitate” the unsolicited distribution of applications by third-parties, which would keep counties from providing applications to local groups helping get out the vote.
Mail-in Voting Correction Process
The bill creates a new process allowing voters to correct their mail-in ballots if they are at risk of being rejected for a technical error. Voters could make those corrections online through a new online ballot tracker that was previously approved by the Legislature.
Voting by Mail New ID Requirements
Voters must provide their driver’s license number or, if they don’t have one, the last four digits of their Social Security number on applications for those ballots. They must also provide those numbers on the envelope used to return their completed ballot. Currently, the state uses a signature matching process to verify completed ballots. Voters may use an expired license or state-issued ID card that is "otherwise valid."
Creating New Rules for Voter Assistance
This new rule could affect our elderly minority voters. If you are assisting a voter, you will now have to recite an expanded oath, now under the penalty of perjury, stating they did not “pressure or coerce” the voter into choosing them for assistance. If you are assisting, you must fill out new paperwork disclosing your relationship to the voter, including voters with disabilities.
Monthly Citizenship Checks
In 2019, the State was sued multiple times as it targeted naturalized citizens who were classified as “possible non-U.S citizens." The bill will require the Texas secretary of state’s office to compare the massive statewide voter registration list with data from the Department of Public Safety to pinpoint individuals who told the department they were not citizens while obtaining or renewing their driver’s license or ID card after registering to vote. Under SB 1, the state will have to rework it's methodology in order to settle pending litigations.
Poll Watcher Protections
The bill states that watchers must be allowed to observe, without obstruction, election activity inside polling places and vote-counting centers so they may call attention to "any observed or suspected irregularity or violation of law." This will allow them to move freely at a site. Poll watchers have a record of intimidating voters of color. The secretary of state's office will create an online course that all watchers must complete.
According to The Texas Secretary of State’s office, they were “happy to report that Texas Elections are in good shape” and that “[t]he Elections in Texas last year were a success... Texas had an election that was smooth and secure.” Many question why a slew of new rules were put into place when the election "was smooth and secure."
United States Justice Department vs. Texas
The United States Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the state. The lawsuit claims that two provisions violate the federal Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.“There is a history of discrimination against voters with disabilities in Texas," the lawsuit claims, noting estimates that 28% of Texans have conditions impairing their mobility, cognition or vision.” One places strict limits on how much assistance can be given to voters who, because of disabilities or limited English proficiency, may need help navigating the voting process. The second places new constraints on how people who vote by mail verify their identities.