AUSTIN, Texas -- Senate Bill 1 in Texas was signed into law by Governor Abbott on Tuesday. It was authored by Texas Republican State Senator Bryan Hughes.
“Everyone needs to know their vote is gonna count and be counted accurately," Sen. Hughes said. "Our goal is to make it easy to vote, and hard to cheat.”
According to Sen. Hughes, the law expands and standardizes in-person voting, requires an online portal to correct ballot mistakes and cracks down on people accused of misleading voters.
“Many of them in minority communities, many of them with limited English proficiency who have a hard time, sometimes with the voting process, they're the ones being taken advantage of being coerced, having their votes stolen," Sen. Hughes said. "But we're going to stand up for them.”
Republicans call it the voting integrity bill. Those opposed deem it a voting restriction bill, like Sophia Lin Lakin, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project.
“You have more and more states emboldened to ultimately enact the voter suppression bills that are being introduced across legislatures across the country," Lakin said. "We have more than 400 anti-voter bills that have been introduced just this past cycle, and it's a full-scale assault on voting rights in response to record levels of turnout that we saw in the 2020 Presidential Election.”
Lakin says SB 1 in Texas restricts voters by taking away drive-through voting and mail-in ballots from populations that disproportionately used those methods this past election.
“States are going after Black and brown voters by targeting the kinds of ways and the tools that Black and brown voters are using in order to make their voices heard," Lakin said. "So, you see a tax on mail voting, for example, in Texas and in many other places as well.”
In order to vote by mail in Texas, Sen. Hughes says you need to be 65 or over, have a disability, or be out of the country to vote by mail.
"We like voting in person,” Sen. Hughes said.
Sen. Hughes says voting in person limits the potential for fraud. However, Alex Keyssar, Stirling Professor of History and Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, says there is extremely little voting fraud in the United States.
“These laws do not seem designed to really protect any compelling state interest in preventing fraud. They seem designed to make it harder for certain people to vote,“ Keyssar said. "We have significant populations that are known to vote Democratic. I mean, the African-American population votes overwhelmingly Democratic, poor people vote overwhelmingly Democratic. So if you can keep those people from voting, that's going to benefit the Republican Party.”
He says what you do see in our voting history, are rules that made it more difficult for certain populations to vote.
“You know, New York State, for example, passed an English language literacy requirement to vote in the early 1920s," Keyssar said. "And a lot of states passed laws, for example, that you had to bring your citizenship papers. They did not pass laws that say you can't vote because you're Black, because that would have been clearly unconstitutional, so they passed laws that made it difficult to vote if you were Black.”
Keyssar says the federal government tends to step in when it becomes clear that when left to their own devices, states will be discriminatory.
“My hope is that there will be a federal response here that we will see some federal action and in and as a result, we'll have many of the tools that we've had before and restored to their full robustness and that will bring a much more, much more close to closer to a democracy in which every person who is eligible to vote is able to vote without discrimination, without unnecessary obstacles, without being targeted,” Lakin said.
For Texas Republicans, the law which goes into effect next election cycle is a big success. Sen. Hughes says he wants to protect everyone’s vote.
“When more people show up, we all win,” Sen. Hughes said.