Texas State Capitol in Austin. (SusanRisdon/Getty Images)
Arguments over lawmakers revising state election laws have sunk into familiar ruts, which have played out again in Texas. Republicans try to shore up the real and perceived security of American elections. Many of their proposals are reasonable and modest; some include pandering to stolen-election conspiracists, and some include sharp-elbowed mischief, but most of the worst ideas shake out during the legislative process. That has happened in Texas with proposals to open polls at 1 p.m. on Sundays; Republicans now say they will move the time back to 11 a.m. to avoid interfering with black churches and their “Souls to the Polls” drives.
Then, Democrats respond with lies, torrents of hyperbole, efforts to shut down the state, and radical proposals of their own in Congress to strip elected state governments of power over election law. The Texas law, which was blocked at the end of May but will be reconsidered in a special session of the legislature this summer, featured an additional irony: Democrats, who have complained long and loud about the impropriety of the minority in the U.S. Senate using the filibuster to block legislation, used a walkout of their own legislative minority to block the legislation.
Much of the controversy in Texas, as elsewhere, revolves around partial rollbacks of “emergency” voting procedures rushed through during the pandemic, some of them by executive fiat. Democrats take a Brezhnev Doctrine approach: Any expansion of any kind (hours, locations, methods of balloting) must be permanent or any rollback will be deemed “voter suppression” — no matter how recently the expansion was created, no matter what it costs, no matter its impact on the security of the ballot or the speed and certainty of vote counts.
This, too, is an opportunistic stance rather than a principled one, as elected Democrats themselves have signed on to adjustments that limited voting expansions in recent years. Stacey Abrams even wrote in her book about sponsoring legislation that reduced the number of days of early voting in Georgia.
The Texas overhaul is sprawling; the conference version
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