The proposed Texas Senate Bill 7, which relates to “election integrity and security, including by preventing fraud in the conduct of elections in this state,” has been the center of debate in the Texas Legislature and among Texans. Democrats walked out of the House on the last day of the regular session to block the bill from passing, but SB 7 will likely be on the agenda for the special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott set to start on July 8.
San Antonio Report Editor Robert Rivard has in several opinion columns referred to the bill as a “voter suppression bill” without providing real evidence to back up his assertion. Instead of an effort to suppress votes, the bill aims to ensure the integrity of each of our ballots.
Every United States citizen has a right to vote protected by the Constitution. As many of us may remember from our high school government class, it is also considered a civic duty to carry out our constitutional right. Indeed, voting makes me feel the importance of my responsibility as a citizen.
The more the voting process is unnecessarily loosened, the greater the potential opportunities for mistakes or outright fraud. Why allow weaknesses in the ballot process? Any unnecessary weakness in the integrity of the ballot — like lax voter identification requirements or unvalidated drop-off ballots — dilutes our individual votes, but more importantly, potentially casts a shadow over our elections.
The proposed bill includes voting rule changes such as a new ID requirement for mail-in ballots. Any chance for a person who is eligible to vote in an election to vote more than once, or for a person who is not eligible to vote to do so under the name of an eligible voter should be eliminated. Many argue that there is no evidence of widespread fraud, but I didn’t wait for my house to be broken into before installing a security system. Identification proof is required for air travel, to exercise one’s right to own a firearm, and to enter most government buildings, so saying that requiring one to cast a ballot is suppression simply doesn’t make sense.
Beyond ID requirements, the bill sensibly rolls back emergency COVID-19 changes, like Harris County’s drive-through voting and one day of 24-hour voting. Emergency procedures implemented amid a once-in-a-century pandemic should not become the new baseline. Boxes could be tampered with or vandalized if left unmonitored. Is it necessary to prove this is happening in order to implement a reasonable safeguard to prevent it? I’ll repeat one of the opinions I read recently: “It’s hardly crazy to think polling-place shenanigans might be more likely at 3 a.m.”
The bill also calls for polling places to open at 1 p.m. on the last Sunday of early voting. This is a mistake on the Republicans’ part since it can be depicted as an attack on Black churches that have a “souls to the polls” tradition. Republicans should drop this provision because it’s not connected to the real goal of ballot integrity.
Under the bill, Texas would still offer two weeks of early voting, which can hardly be referred to as “suppression.” The bill would also require 12 hours of voting each weekday of the last week of the early voting period, and 12 hours on each of the last two days of this period for counties with a population of 30,000 or more, which decreases the population threshold from the current 100,000. Any move to expand early voting should be widely cheered as a move to “get out to vote.”
The Texas bill isn’t perfect, but no election law is since the exercise involves balancing ballot access, election security, and ease of voting administration. The point is that ensuring integrity is hardly an assault on voting rights.