Texas Democrats’ dramatic trip to Washington, DC, this week stemmed from uniform opposition to two voting bills being pushed by state GOP lawmakers: Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3.
Even as some controversial provisions in earlier legislation have been dropped, either bill would still bring a raft of new voting restrictions to the Lone Star State.
Partisan poll watcher protection. Partisan poll watchers would enjoy broad new protection and access in Texas. This includes being “entitled to sit or stand near enough to see and hear the activity.” Effectively, the bill makes it illegal to obstruct or create distance for poll watchers in any way while also giving poll watchers more legal recourse against election officials. Voting rights activists for months have sounded alarms about empowering partisan poll watchers and expanding voter challenges, arguing it could lead to voter intimidation.
Mail-in ballot restrictions. Identification requirements for mail-in ballots would include requiring the last four digits of a Social Security number or a driver’s license number on all vote-by-mail applications and ballot return envelopes. Drive-thru voting ban. Each polling place in Texas would be “located inside a building” and “No voter may cast a vote from inside a motor vehicle” unless they met specific requirements. Early voting hours. Early voting would be prohibited at polling locations statewide “earlier than 6 a.m. or later than 9 p.m.”
Tracking software. Election officials in large counties would be required to monitor “all input and activity” on voting machines via tracking software. Video recording and livestream protocol. Election officials in large counties would be required to set up video surveillance systems, with livestreams made available to certain counties. Assistance restrictions. Anyone who “simultaneously assists three or more voters” would be required to fill out a form detailing their relationship to the voters and whether they’re being paid by a political campaign or committee.