“We had to act last night because #SB7 was a threat to our democracy,” tweeted Texas state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez in defense of Democrats’ walkout to temporarily kill a rather run-of-the-mill election bill. President Joe Biden similarly called it “part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year.”
Nonsense: Senate Bill 7, the Election Integrity Protection Act, isn’t some dastardly effort at voter suppression. It mainly ensures that procedures adopted amid the pandemic don’t become routine going forward, for example banning 24-hour voting and drive-through voting — which officials in Harris County, the state’s largest and home to Houston, put into place in the face of COVID.
Such rules allow “the opportunity for voter fraud when no one is looking,” argued GOP state Rep. Jared Patterson, noting: “Momma always said nothing good happens after midnight. That includes at polling places.”
Other provisions are election-integrity no-brainers, such as making for-pay vote harvesting — collecting absentee and mail-in ballots that you then deliver to election officials — a crime. It would give increased protections to partisan poll watchers, institute stricter requirements for mail-in ballots and let courts void elections in which the number of fraudulent votes were enough to change the outcome. None of these heralds an end to Lone Star State democracy.
And the bill still allows two weeks of early voting, which is more than many other states have; it even increases the hours polls must open for early voting. Yes, it slightly restricts those hours on the last Sunday of the early-vote period, but that’s a helluva lot less of an “assault on democracy” than, say, the arcane rules for even getting a candidate on a ballot in New York state.
The walkout prevented a vote before this year’s legislative session ended. But Gov. Greg Abbott vows to get the bill passed in a special session, which has to happen to deal with restricting after the Census Bureau releases data in August.
If Abbott does get his way, Texas democracy will certainly survive, just as it does in Georgia under a similar law that Democrats also treated as self-government’s Armageddon. If the party doesn’t break its addiction to doomsday talk, it’s going to have change its symbol from a donkey to Chicken Little.
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