Texas Gov. Greg Abbott backing bills that would stymie expansion of voting access

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a recent news conference. - Courtesy Photo / Office of the Governor
Courtesy Photo / Office of the Governor
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a recent news conference.
Throwing in with other Republican lawmakers looking to make voting harder, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday he's backing a pair of "election integrity" bills that would rein in municipalities' efforts to expand poll access.

Abbott trumpeted efforts in the Texas Legislature to safeguard against fraud and create uniform voting rules. However, voting-rights experts say those measures are part of a flood of Republican-supported state bills looking to limit the poll access for potential Democratic voters.

During a mid-morning press conference, Abbott called out officials in Democrat-controlled Harris County for seeking to expand access to mail-in ballots and drive-through voting during the pandemic. Such municipal efforts risk "jeopardizing the election process," he argued.

“The fact is, voter fraud does occur," the governor said. Even so, he admitted he's not aware whether any fraud occurred in Texas during the 2020 cycle.

Voter-mobilization group MOVE Texas blasted the House and Senate bills Abbott has thrown his support behind.

The organization's communication director, Charlie Bonner, said Texas already has some of the most restrictive voter laws in the country and the changes would disproportionately effect people of color, along with poor and young voters.

"Texas is not new to the voter suppression game," Bonner said. "This is a state with a rich and racist history of voter suppression, and right now, history is repeating itself."

In addition to stripping local elections officials of their ability to expand access, the bills supported by Abbott would raise the bar for Texans trying to vote by mail, requiring those who do so because they have a disability to provide specific paperwork as proof.

Republicans have filed an avalanche of bills in state houses across the country seeking to limit ballot access. Those have largely come in battleground states won by Joe Biden and those such as Texas where Democrats are nipping at GOP control.

"It is a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie," Georgia voting-rights activist Stacy Abrams told CNN over the weekend.

The GOP's push comes on the heels of baseless claims by former President Donald Trump and his allies that the 2020 election was marked by widespread fraud. State Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deep Park, who appeared with Abbott Monday helped Trump's campaign with an unsuccessful suit to pitch out votes in Pennsylvania.

"It really is laughable to see folks who sowed so much distrust in the election system last fall now say they're all about election integrity," Bonner said.

Abbott's Monday sales pitch was primarily focused on making voting rules more uniform, something unlikely to sound alarm bells with many Texans, said Cal Jillson, a Southern Methodist University political scientist.

However, Jillson said alarm bells may sound for more Texans as the rhetoric amps up during the legislative session and more scrutiny falls on individual provisions contained in the many voting-related bills filed in the Lege.

"Some of those will be characterized as voter suppression, and that's where the debate will be had," Jillson said.

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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