With the unfounded claims of Texas Democrats growing more and more bizarre, it’s time to set the record straight on Senate Bill 1—legislation that will make it easier to vote, but harder to cheat in Texas.
I’m proud to have helped lead the effort to restore confidence in our election system. And that’s what SB 1 is about, really—it’s not an attempt to overturn any prior election, or to ensure any one party has a permanent majority. The fact is that voter fraud is real—there’s a case in my own district, in which a county commissioner is accused of falsifying dozens of mail-in ballots in a race won by just five votes. That’s just one case, but no level of voter fraud is acceptable.
Democrats claim that under SB 1, partisan poll watchers will be allowed to intimidate voters—but that’s already against the law. The fact is that poll watchers are part of the system now. Under current law in Texas, poll watchers are allowed to observe activities except for the voter casting their ballot. That’s current law—today. All this talk about turning loose these partisan poll watchers is crazy.
What SB 1 does is it prevents elections officials from tossing out a poll watcher with no cause. Election officials would no longer be able to reject a qualified poll watcher, or to block a poll watcher’s view. Poll watchers have a job to do. They’re the eyes and ears of the public. And they come from all parties and all candidates. They tend to be retirees, simply because they have the time and the civic interest in elections. But if they misbehave, they’re still subject to removal. That won’t change.
Next, the Democrats now vacationing in Washington D.C. say that we’re suppressing votes by banning 24-hour voting. But 24-hour voting was never legal in Texas in the first place. The U.S. Constitution stipulates clearly that the “times, places and manner” of elections are to be set by the legislatures. But Harris County, on its own and without any authority to do so, tried 24-hour voting as an experiment. We haven’t found any other county or any other state that has attempted 24-hour voting. If Democrats want 24-hour voting, they are free to come home, offer it as an amendment, and see how to vote goes.
The same applies to drive-through voting. But in that case, even Harris County decided against offering it on Election Day.
The truth is that we’re expanding voting hours. Early voting can start earlier in the day and end later at night under our new law. What’s more, long lines at early voting sites won’t prevent voters from casting their ballots. Under current law, voters in line when the polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day must still be allowed to vote, no matter how long it takes to get through the line. That doesn’t apply to early voting. But with SB 1, voters in line at the close of each early voting day will also be allowed to cast their ballots. That means more voters, not fewer, will have their say in Texas elections.
The biggest change in voting in Texas under SB 1 would be the addition of a simple step to help ensure that mail-in ballots are genuine. Voters would simply write their government-issued ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security Number on a concealed flap on the ballot. And that’s something Texans strongly support. Polling by the Texas Public Policy Foundation shows that 67% of Texans—better than two out of three—support voter ID protections for mail-in ballots, while only 22% oppose them.
As my colleague Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick mentioned in a recent press conference, it’s wrong to say that Republicans in Texas want to suppress minority voters. The fact is that the GOP is gaining with Black voters, Hispanic voters and women voters in the Lone Star State. We value every Texan’s opinion and will defend their right to voice it at the ballot box.
As even the Dallas Morning News admits, hyperbole is drowning out the facts about SB 1—and that’s why I encourage you to read it for yourself, rather than relying on generalizations and news accounts or tweets. SB 1 makes it easier to vote in Texas, but harder to cheat.
Texas Sen. Bryan Hughes represents District 1, which includes portions of Northeast Texas.