Texas GOP bets on hard right turn amid changing demographics

Gov. Greg Abbott signs Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, into law with State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, front center left, Andrew Murr, R-Junction, front left, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, front right, looking on with others in the back ground in Tyler on Tuesday.

TYLER

Gov. Greg Abbott signed an elections overhaul into law Tuesday that restricts some methods of voting in the booming state, after Democrats spent months protesting what they say are efforts to weaken minority turnout and preserve the GOP’s eroding dominance.

Abbott signed the sweeping changes during a ceremony in the East Texas city of Tyler, where the surrounding county went for former President Donald Trump by a more than 2-to-1 margin last year. But it was far closer in Texas overall, with Trump carrying the state by 5 1/2 points, the thinnest margin of victory by a GOP presidential nominee here in decades.

The bill signing again underlined the hard right turn Texas Republicans made this year, including a new state law that took effect last week banning most abortions. Abbott said he chose Tyler because it was home to the voting bill’s main author, Republican Sen. Bryan Hughes, who also authored the new abortion restrictions.

Already, the rewrite of Texas’ voting laws are the target of at least three federal lawsuits — including another filed Tuesday — and all contend the changes will have a disproportionate impact on minorities. Abbott and other Republicans say it expands access by increasing the minimum number of early voting hours, but the law also puts new restrictions on late-night voting.

“I feel extremely confident that when this law makes it through the litigation phase, it will be upheld,” Abbott said. “Because exactly what we’ve said, it does make it easier for people to be able to go vote. No one who is eligible to vote will be denied the opportunity to vote.”

Texas is among at least 18 states that have enacted new voting restrictions since the 2020 election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

The laws are part of a national GOP campaign, including in Florida, Georgia and Arizona, to tighten voting laws in the name of security, partly driven by Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen.

Opponents did not wait for Abbott’s signature to begin filing lawsuits against the new Texas law known as Senate Bill 1. The American Civil Liberties Union, minority rights groups and disability advocates are part of a broad coalition that filed separate lawsuits last week in federal court in Texas, accusing Republican lawmakers of violating the federal Voting Rights Act and intentionally discriminating against minorities.

Some changes squarely take aim at Harris County in the Houston area, where President Joe Biden carried the county of 1.6 million voters last year by a 13-point margin. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Harris County elections officials offered 24-hour polling places and drive-through voting, which are now outlawed under the new law. The county also tried sending mail-in ballot applications to more than 2 million registered voters, but going forward in Texas, any elections official who tries sending an application to someone who doesn’t request one could face criminal charges.

Partisan poll watchers are now also entitled to more movement, and election judges who obstruct them could also face criminal penalties, which Democrats argue could lead to voter intimidation.

“Black votes were suppressed today. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has intentionally signed away democracy for so many. We are disgusted,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement.

In response to new voting restrictions in GOP-controlled statehouses, Democrats in Congress want to pass new federal voting rights protections at the federal level but have been unable to overcome opposition from Senate Republicans.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended Biden’s approach on voting rights, saying the president had used his bully pulpit and made Vice President Kamala Harris the point person on the issue. But Psaki said the administration planned to take additional but unspecified steps to address concerns from voting rights groups. “We would say to these advocates: we stand with you,” Psaki told reporters Tuesday aboard Air Force One. “There’s more we’re going to keep working on together.”

Abbott signed the bill 100 days after Democrats kicked off a summer of last-ditch maneuvers by walking out of the state Capitol to temporarily block the measure. That was followed by more than 50 Democrats flying to Washington, D.C., in July to thwart the bill for a second time, which led to Republicans issuing civil arrest warrants in an effort to compel Democrats to return, although no one wound up being forced to come back.

But the protests did not wind up significantly changing the bill, underscoring Republicans’ determination to pass the measure and the strength of their commanding majority in the Texas Capitol.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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(39) comments

HANK CHESSON

You can tell a Left wing Liberal Dumocrat wrote this article.

Gary Scoggin

Please explain why you think that.

Carlos Ponce

DUH, Gary! It's so obvious.

George Croix

Hear that long moaning wailing..

That’s the cemetery vote being ‘suppressed’…..

Cary Semar

It's all about fairness, George. What I want to know, is why are all those dead Republicans looking so smug?

Carlos Ponce

Soooooo, Cary Semar likes looking at dead Republicans. That's morbid.

George Croix

What's unfair about the voting law overhaul, Cary?

To whom?

Why?

Let's see if your answers match mine.....grin

Cary Semar

Isn't it obvious? If more dead Democrats are prevented from voting than dead Republicans, the law obviously discriminates against dead Democrats.

George Croix

Gotta tell ya, Cary……that is my kind of back-and-forthing……. Grin…..

Carlos Ponce

Dead Republicans don't vote. They rest in peace.

Cary Semar

Actually, it was already illegal for dead Democrats to vote. If they turned out last time, they'll turn out next time as well. They don't mind standing in line, and they don't get thirsty.

Carlos Ponce

Cary Semar, they don't even show up. Someone finds their information and votes for them.. Are you a dead person's proxy?

Jim Forsythe

One can find illegal voting happening from both parties. It has never has reached a point that more a few than few cases, happen each year.

Edward Snodgrass, a local Republican official in Ohio, admitted to forging his dead father's signature on an absentee ballot and then voting again as himself.

Toni Lee Newbill, a Colorado woman, pleaded guilty to voting in the 2013 general election and in the 2016 Republican primary in her father's name after he died in 2012.

George Croix

Bunk…..

Anytime a politician or a partisan starts saying ‘there’s no evidence’ then bet your best pair of skivvies the prints have been wiped….

Waste of time to argue, anyway…..fact is it’s GOOD to make it hard to cheat.

That’s why drivers licenses now have holograms, etc.,,,,,

Only one reason to oppose it, and that’s to get to use that ‘no evidence’ dodge with a wink wink nod nod…..

Suppression my ask me later….

Gary Scoggin

SB1 isn't as bad as many people make it out to be. It's a partisan reform meant to incrementally favor Republicans over Democrats - let's be honest about that - but it's not the end of democracy in Texas. A lot of it is aimed at some of the innovative measures taken in Harris County - like the bans on 24 hr and drive through voting, for example. These are not inherently bad things and can be done while maintaining election integrity, but, since they tended to increase Democratic turn-out, they needed to go, I suppose. Some aspects of SB1, like the ban on unsolicited mail-in ballot requests (not the actual ballots themselves) are good things. Voting by mail is an avenue for fraud and there needs to be some reasonable hurdles to ensure it's only used where actually needed and not just as a convenience.

The best thing about the final bill is what's not in it. Earlier versions of the bill prior to the last special session made it easy for state courts or the legislature to overturn the will of the people, substituting their own outcomes of an election, ala the new structure in Georgia. This provision made elections ripe for fraud by the party in charge and made the earlier versions unacceptable. (What is interesting is that no elected official ever took credit for inserting that provision into the earlier bills - it just magically appeared.)

Carlos Ponce

Gary Scoggin posts, "It's a partisan reform meant to incrementally favor Republicans over Democrats". So preventing fraud favors Republicans over Democrats.

Gary Scoggin

For those of you actually paying attention out there, certain provisions of the bill such as limits on early voting hours, including the mandated expansion of early voting hours in rural Republican counties has little to do with fraud and everything to do with ease (or lack thereof) of voting.

George Croix

I suppose extra voting hours could make voting harder if one were placed in a quandary trying to decide when to go now, and got a headache….

Gary Scoggin

The point is that the mandated extra hours in rural districts make voting easier for a strong Republican set of voters. I have no problem with this.

Bailey Jones

I don't say it often enough, Gary, but thanks for your comments. You have a knack for seeing the reality of things, and making reasoned, accurate, and relatable arguments. It must be the Texas Tech in you.

Cary Semar

[thumbup]

Gary Scoggin

Thanks, Bailey. I attribute it all to Tech.

Cary Semar

[thumbup]

Karen Lauer

Gary, this is a very reasonable and well thought comment. I agree that mail-in ballot requests should have to be requested, so I don't have a problem with that part, but banning the 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting doesn't make sense to me. People who work two or three jobs or work odd hours (such as all of our healthcare workers right now) should have the flexibility to vote when it's convenient for them just like the rest of us who work normal hours. Sure, there's an extra hour of early voting now, but that hardly makes a difference to someone working two jobs or working 12-14 hour shifts. Drive-thru and 24-hour polls still required the same identification and voting procedures as indoor polling places, so how does banning them ensure election integrity when they follow the same rules? There may be certain areas in the state where it doesn't make sense to have those options, so requiring local districts to provide these options isn't right either, but if there are people willing to work the polls outside or late at night, and the citizens in those districts want to utilize those options, what's the harm in letting local governments decide to permit them?

Bailey Jones

Voting should be made as easy as possible, consistent with election security. It's funny how people complain about the DMV or IRS making life harder than it needs to be, but object when a government tries to make things easy. 24 hour voting makes perfect sense for Houston. As does drive through voting. I'm a fan of vote by mail, but it takes some years to properly design a system that's fraud proof. However, it's ideal for rural areas, and for anyone who has a busy life. Texans are surely smart enough to make this work here.

The fraud story is specious window dressing, of course. I engage in secure financial transactions every day - sometimes in person, sometimes by mail, sometimes online. Any form of voting can be made secure. A wise government allows individual voting districts to try new things and see what works.

The history of voting laws in the country has been one of gradually adding both convenience and security. (see https://my.lwv.org/texas/about/timeline-voting-elections-texas) There's no reason these two things can't go hand in hand.

Jim Forsythe

Karen, you are right. Different counties have different needs. Counties that have mostly farmers have different needs than a county such as Harris.

Loving county had 66 people vote in 2020 for President. After hours voting for Loving county, for one or two days may meet their needs. This also could be ideal for a drop box. Mail in ballots for them, may be the best way for them to go.

Carlos Ponce

Jim posts, "you are right. Different counties have different needs."

Sounds like the same argument used by Southern States to keep slavery in the South: " Different states have different needs."

George Croix

What could be more secure than places where ballots are mailed to everyone on a list, with no request requirement, often not even a signature verification requirement, said list updated sometime after buggy whips went the way of dinosaurs, and collected by the dozens or hundreds and carried, eventually, to drop boxes, conveniently located on a Corner Near You, by people checking, first, to be sure that activity is not on their List Of Things To Be Offended By, or perhaps a micro-aggression.....??

Chuckle.

California wants it's voters, or at least it's taxpayers, back......they can get more voters in the next caravan.....or, not...... grin

Cheer up. The current Admin. and sympathetic state legislatures will do all they can to insure that Pandemic Voting Measures extend to next November, wherever possible.....they largely owe their current jobs to it....

Down the road, way down, maybe Gov. S. Jackson-Lee will sign a revision to this legislation into law, mandating vote early and often, and providing not just hand delivered ballots to all with a name, but a "pre-filled out" option to save the usual suspects from the onerous civic duty of thinking converted to marks on paper or twist of voting machine wheel......that "suppression" stuff so prevalent nowadays....

Big chuckle......

Seriously, what would REALLY be handy is for all voters to have some idea what they are voting for, besides some consonant prefix, or promised quid pro quo.....

I crack myself up.......

George Laiacona

Like I said before, as long as the Republicans are in power they will try any kind of gimmick they can to win the next election. After all we must consider that they are not doing to sit still and just hope they win the next election, they have to keep active and per-sue any and all options. They must stay in power even though they screwed up January 6th.

Carlos Ponce

But you keep bragging Democrats are in power in Washington DC. Does that mean "as long as the Democrats are in power they will try any kind of gimmick they can to win the next election"?

The January 6th events are regrettable but have been blown out of proportion.

Just think about the Summer of 2020 - what Liberals called "Peaceful Protests". No comparison!

Setting fire to a Federal Courthouse, destroying a police station, trying to blind police officers using lasers, destruction of private businesses, assaults, looting. 2000 police officers injured, numerous deaths including retired police chief David Dorn.

And the Liberal powers that be set most of the perps free.

Ted Gillis

And killing a guard at the Oakland courthouse.

Oh wait a minute, that was either a proud or booger loo boys posing up as protesters.

Include everything Carlos., otherwise your story is considered biased......and fake news.

Carlos Ponce

So Ted equates "The Summer of Love" riots, looting, killings, assaults, arson with one nut job.

Ted Gillis

And the little immature pip squeak racist who had his mother drive him to Milwaukee so he could play shoot’um up with his older immature racists friends.

That one too!

Carlos Ponce

Still no equivalence.

George Laiacona

We must realize that the Republicans have their ideas as to how our Democracy should be and the Democrats have theirs. Take the time to consider just what is good for all Americans not just a political party. The Republicans showed us just who they really are on January 6th, so keep that in mind when you get to the voting booth. We need Patriotic Americans running our country, not traitors to our democracy.

Carlos Ponce

"We must realize that the Republicans have their ideas as to how our Democracy should be" It means following the US Constitution. RINOS are more Democrat Party types.

"The Republicans showed us just who they really are on January 6th" That was only a handful, George Laiacona. But it does not compare to what Liberals, Antifa and BLM edid during the "Summer of Love" tour 2020: death, destruction. maiming..... and the Democrats let most of them go - no charges. We'll keep that in mind in the voting booth.

George Croix

And too many Democrats show us exactly who most of them really are the other 364 days of a year….

Nothing is absolute, and not all on the left are raving lunatics who set one against the other based on skin color, believe in victimism, or think that a solid work ethic is one sign of ‘white supremacy’. And that looting/rioting/arson/assault are justifiable results of every slight or deed real or imagined…

I’d agree that is certainly a different view of ‘our democracy’ from my own…

Carlos Ponce

Did you see the Democrat white woman wearing a gorilla mask and throwing eggs at California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder?

If the woman was Republican throwing eggs at a Black Democrat candidate while wearing a gorilla mask the media would be crying "RACISM!!!!!" But since it's a gorilla mask wearing Democrat white woman throwing at a Republican the mainstream media is silent. I sense hypocrisy.

Ted Gillis

Carlos, the watch dog of the right. We can always count on you.

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