AUSTIN, Texas - More than 40 election-related bills have been filed at the Texas State Capitol this session. The issue was expected but delayed by emergency hearings regarding the loss of power during the recent winter storm.
The creation of drive-up locations to drop off mail-in ballots during the November election was almost as controversial as the names at the top of the ballot. Court fights resulted between the state and several county clerks, who claimed the modifications they made were done to help those fearful of catching COVID-19.
"There is really one thing we all can and should agree upon that is we must have trust and confidence in our elections," said Gov. Greg Abbott during a news conference Monday in Houston.
Abbott urged state lawmakers Monday to move forward with efforts that he claims will provide election integrity. "Whether it’s the unauthorized expansion of mail-in ballots for the unauthorized expansion of drive-through voting we must pass along was to prevent election officials from jeopardizing the election process," he said.
Some of the proposals up for debate include:
- Prohibiting mass mailing of absentee ballots
- Providing poll watcher protection
- Banning the use of P.O. boxes for voter registration
- Fast track court challenges
- Require paper ballots with electronic voting machines
- Uniform hours of operation for polls
The reform bills will be pushed by state Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and state Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park). Both joined the governor for his briefing in Houston.
"The only form of voter suppression is when an illegitimate voter, an ineligible voter casts a ballot when an ineligible voter casts their ballot what they are actually doing is silencing the voice of an American citizen, of someone that is eligible to vote, it's wrong and we should stop it," said Cain.
In response to the governor's briefing, state Democrats Monday described the republican lead effort as "phony" and "misleading."
"instead of telling Texans the irrefutable truth that our elections are safe and secure and free, the governor instead chooses to fan the flames of conspiracy theories by entangling Texas into a national Republican strategy to make it harder for Americans to vote," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner (D-Arlington).
Democrats Monday said they want to protect the vote by expanding access. Their ideas include online voter registration, allowing anyone to vote by mail, and more polling locations on college campuses.
"So we are not for a big bloated government we don’t want the Big Brother Orwellian state looking over everyone’s shoulder making sure you have a doctors note or paperwork so you can drive a family member to the polls, or your friends too, we would like a voting system that truly has integrity," said state senator Nathan Johnson (R-Dallas).
As with past changes made by the Republican-controlled statehouse, some of the bills that are signed by the governor could be debated once again in a courtroom.