The Texas GOP’s voter suppression tactics made headline this session as then Texas Acting Secretary of State David Whitley conducted a sweeping voter purge. Whitley eventually resigned over his role in the botched voter purge, and it turns out Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was behind the voter suppression scheme

Emails released show that Gov. Abbott’s office made an urgent request to the Texas Department of Public Safety to obtain drivers’ license data in order to identify non-citizens on the voter rolls. Whitley used the driver’s license data to spread the lies that 95,000 non-citizens were registered to vote in Texas and that 58,000 non-citizens had voted in Texas elections. Texas subsequently settled a lawsuit related to those lies, agreeing to stop the unconstitutional voter purge and leaving Texas taxpayers on the hook for $450,000 in costs. Whitley and Gov. Abbott both violated the public trust in orchestrating Texas’ illegal, racist voting purge and both need to go.

On the restoration of voting rights for individuals with felony records, a recent study shows that Texas’ system for restoring voting rights acts as a modern day poll tax. Citizens’ right to vote should never be dependent on whether they can afford it. This poll tax needs to be removed.

Texas Republicans also worked to suppress the vote through new legislation. GOP lawmakers enacted legislation to restrict early voting at mobile polling places (HB 1888). This measure is plainly targeted at making it harder for Texans to vote and it is undemocratic. 

Republican lawmakers advanced other measures to suppress the vote that did not pass this session. One bill (SB 9) limits physical and language accessibility for voters who need assistance and provides for cruel penalties for people who mistakenly register to vote and are ineligible. This legislation is all about scaring people into not registering to vote. GOP lawmakers also introduced legislation to restrict absentee voting (HB 273), restrict early voting (SB 1418), and make Texas’ voter ID law even more restrictive (SB 1926). Those bills did not pass, but we can be sure that Texas Republicans will continue to push for suppressive laws in the next session.

Meanwhile, Texas Democrats pushed to make voting more accessible this session, but were unsuccessful. Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation to expand early voting (HB 1237HB 2627), repeal Texas’ restrictive voter ID law (HB 824HB 526SB 104), establish straight ticket voting (HB 740SB 359), allow for voting in county jails (HB 1762), establish no-excuse early voting by mail (HB 325SB 164), provide voter registration at polling places (SB 102SB 276HB 1138), establish automatic voter registration (HB 140), expand early voting, restore the right to vote to people with felony convictions once they have completed their sentence (HB 1419), create an independent redistricting commission (SJR 56), and create the Texas Voting Rights Act (HB 2429). All of those pro-voter measures would have strengthened Texans voting rights, but none passed due to Republican opposition. 

Texas has long been one of the true leaders in suppressing the vote, but Texans have a chance to make that change in 2020 by electing voting rights champions!