Texas economist warns of consequences if strict voting access legislation becomes law

One of the state's foremost economists says laws that restrict access to voting can have substantial economic consequences.

Texas lawmakers are considering new legislation which would tighten access to voting across the state. Voting rights activists and several large corporations and businesses have condemned the proposals.

Economist Dr. Ray Perryman was invited to appear before the commissioners’ courts in Dallas and Tarrant counties to share specific information.

"Conventions, many companies don’t want to book large conventions in areas - or major trade associations - that have a reputation for being discriminatory in some way," Perryman said.

Perryman presented his findings to Tarrant County commissioners in person. Before appearing there he tried to share his work with Dallas County commissioners over zoom. His video did not work, but that was not the only problem.

"You've taken one study that is 40 years old and another that is just focusing on women," said commissioner J.J. Koch.

The Republican blasted Perryman, saying his data did not include any of the 20 states currently with voter ID laws. Koch said claiming some detriment to voting equals less economic activity was academically dishonest.

"If anyone did the work that I did and drilled down to the extremely disingenuous two nuggets that you used to set up this premise, that with restricted voter access you have this economic effect, if anyone were to drill down on this they would immediately see that you're lying with the numbers," Koch said.

The economist tried to explain.

"Over an extended period of time after the Voting Rights Act was passed, there was a 30 percent reduction in the gap between Black and white earnings. Five percent of the 30 percent or something like that, was attributed to voter access to the ballot. These are very vigorous studies done in a vigorous way," Perryman said.

"These are studies done in a vigorous way dealing with the positive dealing with effects that ended in 1980," Koch replied.

Tarrant County commissioners listened without interruption.

"In Texas, by 2025 the state will lose $14.7 billion dollars in gross product and about 73,000 jobs," Perryman said.

Tarrant County leaders took note.

"Maybe the legislature will listen a little bit more to the economic impact, because what they're proposing will make it extremely difficult for local counties -- especially your largest counties," said Glen Whitley, Tarrant County judge.

Governor Greg Abbott opted not to answer any questions about potential fallout from the legislation while at the groundbreaking for the Omni PGA Resort in Frisco on Tuesday.