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The 88th Legislature’s Plans To Further Disenfranchise Voters

Each legislative session, Republicans craft new ways to restrict voting access to Texans. Unfortunately, this upcoming year will be no exception.

Before the last legislative session, Texas was already the hardest state in America to vote in, then Republicans cut polling hours, reduced voting access, and targeted marginalized communities for disenfranchisement. Aside from the racially gerrymandered maps, the new laws passed in 2021 is a contributing factor as to why 9 million registered voters stayed home in November.

Republicans will never stop looking for new and creative ways to remove voting rights and access from as many Texans as possible. If everyone went to the polls and voted, the GOP in Texas would become obsolete.

Voter suppression is a cornerstone of Conservative politics, and this upcoming legislative session will not be any different. Let’s talk about the bills which have already been introduced, but keep in mind they still have time to file more bills. (It can always get worse.)

It will be a felony to vote in a Republican primary unless you register as a Republican.

Because of the severity of the racial gerrymandering in Texas, many Texans do not have equal representation. Gerrymandering has blocked Democrats completely out of many races. For the last several years, Democratic voters who live in gerrymandered Republican districts only have Republicans to vote for in general elections. So, those Democrats have been voting in Republican primaries, always voting for the lesser of two evils. It’s the only way they’ve been able to keep some moderate Republicans in the Texas Legislature.

While the GOP’s goal is to push the party further right, they’ve become frustrated that Democrats have been voting in the Republican primaries to prevent that from happening.

HD02 Rep Bryan Slaton has introduced HB 239, requiring that you must also pick a party affiliation when you register to vote. If your party affiliation is Democratic, you cannot vote in the Republican primaries. If you do vote in the Republican primary, your vote will be tossed out, and you’ll be charged with a felony.

Provide a sworn affidavit to the voter registrar to cast a ballot.

Senator Lois Kolkhorst’s SB 260 says that if your residence is a P.O. box or similar location, your name is on the suspense list, you haven’t voted in the last 25 months, or the registrar has any other reason to believe your residence is different from your voter registration. Then you’ll have to provide a sworn affidavit under Section 15.051(a) of Texas’ Election Code.

This bill targets people more likely to be transient and less involved in the Democratic process. Renters, students, and houseless people will all be affected by this bill.

It’s no coincidence that younger people or people without assets are more likely to vote for a Democrat. So while this bill may also disenfranchise some Republicans, the GOP’s goal is to get the least number of people voting.

Precinct-level audits to determine whose vote can be thrown out.

Over the last few years, forensic election audits have become a useful tool for the GOP. They use these audits to discover how counties conduct their elections, looking for new ways to reduce voting access. Republicans are using the reports generated by these audits to craft legislation to disenfranchise people.

HB 589 by Representative Steve Toth states that if a candidate, county chair of a political party, a presiding judge, an alternative presiding judge, or the head of a political action committee decides that precinct results were irregular or they didn’t like an action taken by an election officer, then they can submit a written request to the Secretary of State to audit that precinct.

Last year, Harris County Republicans, along with Valoree Swanson, formed a team that investigated the social media accounts of everyone whose voter registration indicated they were disabled. When they found a person “didn’t look disabled,” they reported that person to the Secretary of State for possible election fraud. But, unfortunately, there are no lengths that Republicans won’t go to stop people from voting.

Early voting days to be reduced to only seven days.

HB 919 is another crap bill by Bryan Slaton. In Texas, a person has 13 early voting days before an election. Slaton’s bill would reduce that to only seven days. This bill would also move those days to the seven days preceding the election.

If you followed me on Twitter before the election, you might have seen me discuss and post videos and articles about the GOP’s hang-up regarding early voting. It’s stupid. Trump told his base, leading up to the election, not to vote early and not to vote by mail. He said, “that’s how Democrats cheat.” Countless Republican influencers and GOP voters began repeating that lie, saying, “if Democrats know how many votes the Republicans have during early voting, then they know how much they have to cheat on election day.”

Slaton, the furthest-right member of the Texas House, probably believes that access to early voting increases the likelihood of fraud. Although, there is no evidence to suggest that’s true.

Separating federal and state elections.

For whatever reason, more people (especially Democrats) vote in federal than state elections. Which is why Representative Mike Schofield filed HB 294. This bill separates federal elections from state elections, so there would be fewer votes for state representatives during a presidential election year.

Not only do people not want to make one more extra trip to the polls to vote, the voters who aren’t as engaged politically are more likely to only vote during a presidential election.

Establishing the new election police force.

Senator Paul Bettencourt has spent the last two decades in Texas coming up with different ways to disenfranchise voters, primarily Hispanic voters. That’s why his latest bill shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. SB 220 establishes the Brown Shirts Election Police Force.

Many years ago, the Ku Klux Klan used to stand outside of voting centers, to intimidate and discourage Black people from voting. At times, when a Black person would cast a vote anyway, they might have wound up beaten or killed.

Bettencourt’s new Election Police Force will be established for the sole purpose of intimidating voters. These brown shirts election police will stand outside and in voting locations looking for people who “just don’t look” like they should be voting. It’ll be the election police’s job to prevent said voter from casting a ballot.

If things don’t change in Texas and we don’t get these fascists out of office, we will have no rights in Texas and completely lose the ability to vote.

It’s too late for the next legislative session, we’re all going to have to brace and absorb what the right is getting ready to hit us with, and it’s going to be a lot.

If you aren’t already involved, get involved now. Keep an eye and ear out for calls to action in the coming months for protests or showing up to testify in Austin. Pray we get federal intervention soon.

(Every legislator above wins an Anti-Award© for their anti-voting positions.)

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