Republican lawmakers in Texas are finalizing negotiations on a bill that, if implemented, would severely restrict voting rights in the state and make it easier for judges to overturn elections. President Biden called the legislation “an assault on democracy” that would disproportionately affect voters of color.
“Texas legislators put forth a bill that joins Georgia and Florida in advancing a state law that attacks the sacred right to vote,” Biden said in a statement Saturday. “It’s part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year—and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans.”
The bill, which has been negotiated in private by a group of mostly Republican legislators, includes provisions that would eliminate 24-hour polling stations and ban voting on Sundays after 1 p.m., affecting churches that often bus their parishioners to the polls and likely creating longer afternoon lines. It would also give expanded oversight to partisan poll watchers and criminally penalize anyone who prevents them from accessing the inside of polling places.
“It’s wrong and un-American. In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote,” Biden said.
Another measure in the bill lowers the threshold of proof of fraudulent voting from “clear and convincing evidence” to “preponderance of the evidence,” the Houston Chronicle reported. And the legislation would let a judge overturn an election if the number of fraudulent ballots is more than the margin of victory, in which case the judge could “declare the election void without attempting to determine how individual voters voted.”
As Tommy Buser-Clancy, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, told the Chronicle, “If you don’t have to show that they would have made a difference, then even ‘illegal votes’ or ‘fraudulent votes’ for your side get factored into that equation. This is just a perpetuation of the Big Lie, and as we’ve seen throughout the nation, this is a further weakening of the institutional strength of our democracy.”
Republican Governor Greg Abbott has supported the legislation and pledged he will sign it into law if it comes to his desk. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, since the 2020 election, 14 states have enacted 22 new laws restricting access to the vote, despite there still being zero evidence of widespread voter fraud.