Republicans in the Texas Senate have passed legislation that would dramatically decrease the number of polling places in heavily Democratic counties, which would disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color in the state. The provision is now under discussion as the state Senate and House attempt to reconcile each chamber’s bill into a single piece of legislation.
The Republican proposal currently being considered would apply a new formula to calculate the number of polling places in five, or possibly six, of the state’s largest counties. But according to an analysis by the Texas Tribune, it would overwhelmingly affect Democratic voters and voters of color. As an example, all 13 districts in Harris County that would lose polling places under the new formula are represented by Democrats. The districts represented by Republicans, on the other hand, would either gain or keep the same number of polling places. And in the majority of cases, the Harris County districts that would lose polling places have higher populations of non-white voters, while the districts that would gain polling places have a much higher proportion of white voters.
This proposal is not guaranteed to make it into the final legislation. Although it was passed in the state senate, the statehouse passed a version of the bill without the formula. The legislative process for this bill has not been without its controversies. Earlier in the month, the presidents of the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) protested the make-up of the conference committee — the legislators combining the bills — because it initially included no African-American or Latino representation, although that has since been changed.
Other portions of the bill contain ideas taken from conservative activist group Heritage Action for America, according to the group’s executive director, former Trump official Jessica Anderson, who was recently caught on tape bragging that the Texas voting bill includes “19 provisions” from Heritage.
This piece of legislation is part of a larger trend as Republicans in state legislatures across the country try to restrict voting under the guise of expanding access and increasing election security. Georgia’s governor has already signed into law a bill that restricts mail-in voting, prohibits giving food to voters waiting in line and ends portable polling sites. And according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 361 bills with restrictive provisions have been introduced to the legislatures of 47 states.