Texas voters deserve policies that protect the integrity of our elections and ensure every eligible Texan’s freedom to vote. I remember, when growing up, the first time I went to the ballot box was with my mother, who was voting early at the public library in Clear Lake. She was proud to make her voice heard, and it was important for her to show me why voting is important for our family, community and country.
While my mother was able to exercise her freedom to vote, new voting laws proposed in the second special legislative session threaten that freedom for too many Texans.
After months of heated rhetoric around elections legislation, lawmakers have an important decision to make that will impact millions of Texans. They can continue to try to legislate from their partisan corners, which will only lead to more division and distrust in our system, or they can take the opportunity to work towards common-sense, bipartisan solutions that will strengthen access to the ballot box, increase confidence in our voting systems and ensure there is no partisan interference in our elections.
To start, Texas lawmakers could modernize the voter registration process by ensuring every eligible Texas voter can register to vote online through a secure portal, as state Rep. Jacey Jetton, R-Richmond recently suggested. Online voter registration is a tried and tested solution already in place in more than 40 states that will give more Texans the opportunity to register to vote. It has other added benefits, too. Allowing voters to register or update their records online can create cleaner voter rolls and cut down on unneeded paperwork for election administrators and DMV workers.
The Legislature can also give Texans who are busy with school, work or childcare, as well as seniors and people with disabilities, more options to make their voices heard on their own schedules by expanding early voting options. Proposals to expand early voting in Texas would ease the burdens of administering Election Day activities for election officials and shorten lines at polling places. And expanding early voting is popular: a recent poll my organization — Secure Democracy — conducted last month with Ragnar Research showed that 74% of likely Texas voters support extending the early voting period by a week, and 80% support adding a second weekend of early voting.
Other common-sense policies have broad support from Texas voters as well. For instance, creating a consistent process to notify voters and provide them with accessible options to correct — or “cure” — simple mistakes on their mail ballots, like a missing signature, is one important way to help make elections fairer and build trust in the system.
Texans also overwhelmingly believe there should be more in-person options to vote on Election Day. Eighty-seven percent of likely Texas voters, including 69% of Republicans, support increasing the number of polling locations on Election Day. In fact, one recent report found that in the last nine years, 750 polling places across Texas have closed. Increasing polling places could go a long way to ensuring voters have more options to vote that are closer to their homes, places of work and schools.
Finally, Texas voters are clear that they do not support efforts to increase partisan influence in our elections. Voting legislation recently proposed in Texas would have allowed partisan poll watchers to be more intrusive, limited election officials’ ability to stop voter harassment, and injected more partisanship in Texas elections. But our poll found that 90% of Texas voters believe state lawmakers should take steps to protect elections from partisan interference, and 93% believe poll watchers should undergo mandatory training.
It’s time that Texas legislators put Texas voters first as they consider election legislation for the third time around, and Texas voters’ desires are clear. Voters are demanding common-sense solutions that modernize our elections, create more voting options for all eligible Texans and protect elections from partisan interference. Instead of pushing legislation that could restrict Texans’ sacred right to vote, state lawmakers should work together to advance election policies that are in the best interest of all voters.
Secure Democracy is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization working to improve election integrity. Learn more at www.secure-democracy.org.
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