Texas House passes bill to include parents with young children in curbside voting

Current Texas law only allows curbside voting for voters with disabilities. The new legislation would allow — but not require — polling places to accommodate parents with young kids.

Curbside voting is available in Tarrant County for voters with disabilities. A proposed House bill would expand the option to parents in Texas.
Curbside voting is available in Tarrant County for voters with disabilities. A proposed House bill would expand the option to parents in Texas.  Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

The Texas House gave the green light Monday to a bill that supporters say would increase voter turnout by allowing parents with children younger than 5 years old to participate in curbside voting.

House Bill 2898 by Rep. Art Fierro, D-El Paso, was given preliminary approval by the House on an informal voice vote. It will still require a final vote from the House before heading to the Senate for consideration. (Update: The House gave the bill final approval in a 90-52 vote May 8.)

The measure "simply allows but does not require election authorities to offer curbside voting for parents," said Fierro.

Texas law requires curbside voting for people with disabilities. HB 2898, meanwhile, leaves it up to local election officials to decide whether to offer curbside voting for parents with young children. The bill also creates a study to be performed by the Texas Secretary of State’s office that would evaluate the best practices for curbside voting for people with children and report it to the legislature by December 2020. The bill would come at no cost to the state, according to an analysis by the state's Legislative Budget Board.

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Critics of the bill say it would create an additional task for election officials and could take away from the existing curbside voting process for people with disabilities. State Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, raised the concern at a House Elections Committee meeting in April that parents would bring their children just to “skip the line” in polling places with long waits.

Adrianne Moody, co-founder of El Paso nonprofit Moms on Board, said the group brought the bill to Fierro after organizing an informal curbside swap system on election days. For the past two years, Moody said, the group organized the swap through a Facebook group. Members with young children would switch off watching one another's children and voting. However, since the group has grown to almost 8,000 members, Moody said the practice was no longer feasible for Moms on Board.

“We don’t want to take away the voting experience for children,” Moody said. “We want to encourage that, but when you’re in the thick of it all with a newborn and a 3-year-old, it’s just making it a little easier.”

Shannon Najmabadi contributed to this report.

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