On September 7, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the Election Integrity Protection Act of 2021, S.B. 1, which standardizes state voting procedures with respect to issues such as polling hours, voting by car, and voting by mail. Activists have filed multiple lawsuits, alleging that the law suppresses the votes of minorities, persons with disabilities, and the elderly. Over 50 state legislators left the state to prevent S.B. 1 from even coming to a final vote, and President Biden has criticized the new law as an “all-out assault on our democracy.”
How much do you know about Texas’s new election integrity law? Let’s play “Two Truths & a Lie” and find out.
A. S.B. 1 expands hours for Sunday voting, a day some black congregations use for turnout drives.
B. S.B. 1 bans voters with physical disabilities from driving up to the curb of the polling place and voting.
C. S.B. 1 attempts to address ballot fraud committed against older voters in nursing homes.
Let’s take these statements one at a time:
A. TRUTH! S.B. 1 increases polling hours on Sundays so that churches can plan “souls to the polls” events, used by black churches to get voters to the polls since the civil rights era. Although a previous version of a Texas election integrity legislation did not include this expansion, the state legislature added it to the final text of S.B. 1 in response to requests by church leaders and civil rights groups.
B. LIE! Texans with disabilities who are unable to enter a polling place can request that election officials bring a ballot out to their cars. This accommodation is called “curbside voting.” Texas law allowed curbside voting prior to S.B. 1, and it remains the law after the passage of S.B. 1. S.B. 1, however, clarifies that curb-side voting is to be used only for persons with mobility disabilities. It further requires that a designated public election official or assistant designated by the voter take an oath, under penalty of perjury, that he or she did not pressure or coerce the voter and will not share information about who the voter cast a ballot for. The curb-side voting accommodation for persons with disabilities should not be confused with “drive-thru voting,” which S.B. 1 prohibits in order to ensure the secret ballot and protect voters from coercion. Curb-side voting procedures and other accessibility requirements for voting are described on vote.texas.gov, a website run by the chief election officer of Texas.
C. TRUTH! S.B. 1 puts a numeric identifier requirement on mail-in ballots in order to protect voters, particularly those over age 65 who often cast ballots by mail. S.B. 1 requires that voters who request a mail-in ballot provide an identification number (such as a driver’s license or Social Security number) on their applications and return ballot. State legislators added these provisions in response to concerns that Texans listed as over age 65 on the voter rolls have been targeted for mail ballot fraud schemes. Texas law enforcement has documented cases of this fraud in Fort Worth and Dallas.
Bottom line: Contrary to media hyperbole, the Texas Election Integrity Act of 2021 contains several provisions that make it easy to vote and difficult to cheat. At different stages of the legislative process, Texas legislative leadership incorporated input from different communities to improve voting access for all eligible Texans, regardless of race, religion, disability, or age.