By State Rep. Lyle Larson
Imagine your football team just won the national championship. Then the coach decides to change the quarterback, the offense and the defensive scheme. Does that make any sense whatsoever?
If conspiracy theorists are to be believed, in the 2020 November election, mass voter fraud took place across the country. While evidence is lacking to prove mass voter fraud occurred, even if it did, the fraudsters must have stayed out of Texas, because Republicans won big. In 2020, President Trump won Texas, the Texas House retained its 83-67 Republican majority, and 22 of 36 seats in the Texas Congressional delegation remain in Republican hands (one is currently vacant).
Despite Republican electoral success, voter “integrity” legislation came before the Texas House this week. The bill’s proponents promise it will make elections more secure, but the reality is that it includes a number of provisions that will make it harder for eligible voters to cast their vote. What’s even more perplexing is that the proposed legislation attacks voting practices that Republicans have traditionally relied upon for decades to turn out voters.
According to a recent poll, 64% of Texas Republicans cast their ballots early. Republicans cast half of all absentee ballots in Texas’ 2020 general election. Among all Republican voters 55 or older in Texas, 91% voted early or by mail. When asked, 73% of voters (including 58% of Republican voters) support extending early voting by one week. 84% of voters (including 80% of Republican voters) support increasing the number of polling stations.
The proposed legislation will restrict counties from lengthening early voting hours and adding polling places, allow poll watchers to harass voters, and prohibit officials from providing unsolicited mail-in ballot applications. The suppression tactics included in this bill will hurt the Republican Party as much or more than its opposition. One can only wonder, are the bill authors trying to make it harder for Republican voters to vote?
Many of us can vividly remember the bravery of the Iraqi folks that voted in 2010 amidst all the chaos and violence. We need to strive to make it easier to vote in America, not harder! In my estimation, this is an unforced error that will give Democrats an issue to use against Republicans in the 2022 general election.
It appears the state’s leadership is creating laws to deal with an issue that does not exist. Passing laws to deal with hypotheticals is not good governing.
Good ideas will attract more voters than suppression will deny. The short term benefit for sitting members will put the party into the wilderness for a long time. Security and suppression are two different goals.
Larson, R-San Antonio, is a member of the Texas House of Representatives. He can be reached at email@example.com or @RepLyleLarson.