With “Senate Bill 1”, is Texas really trying to prevent minorities from voting?


“The ‘Senate Bill 1’ guarantees confidence in our electoral system and above all, it facilitates the vote and makes fraud more difficult”, welcomed Republican Governor Greg Abbott at the time to affix his signature on the bill brought by Senator Bryan Hughes, also rapporteur of the “Senate Bill 8” relating to the voluntary termination of pregnancy. The text comes in the wake of the controversial Supreme Court ruling in the case Brnovich v. DNC, which recently validated two laws in the state of Arizona considered by its opponents to be measures of voter suppression, hindering access to the ballot boxes for people from minorities.

For the Republican Party, this law responds to an urgent need to fight electoral fraud: “The law was passed to appease the electoral base of the Republican Party, convinced that there were serious problems of electoral fraud in 2020, even though there is no notable evidence of fraud, and therefore demanded that GOP leaders do something about this non-existent problem, notes Mark P. Jones, professor of political science at Rice University in Houston. The result in Texas is the “Senate Bill 1”, which, while unnecessary, is not a “Jim Crow 2.0”, and will at most have a very limited impact on voter turnout. ”

Obstruction of the right to vote?

La SB1 “Restricts access to the right to vote and targets the very measures that communities of color have disproportionately relied on to increase turnout in 2020 and in other recent elections”. These are the words used by the League of United Latin American Citizen (LULAC) in a complaint filed on September 7 in a Federal District Court. The association, like many other organizations politically close to the Democratic Party, sees this law as yet another legislative obstacle intended to prevent access to the ballot boxes for minorities, populations mainly in favor of Democrats.

However, in view of the provisions of the text, many grievances seem imprecise to say the least: this is the case, for example, with early voting, which allows voters to go to the polls during the two weeks preceding the official day of voting. ballot. For LULAC, SB1 “Limit early voting hours”. In truth, the text extends, increasing the hourly amplitudes granted to this voting method. Another contested provision: the deletion of the «drive-thru», implemented locally last year to vote without leaving your vehicle.

This anti-Covid method, intended to be only a palliative measure, is today fiercely defended by the opposition to SB1, which underlines its positive influence on the participation rate. Harris County had in fact counted nearly 127,000 ballots deposited in «drive-thru», that is to say a little more than 1% of the ballots. Nevertheless, despite being the most populous in the state, none of the other 253 counties had implemented such a voting system. A pattern that is repeated for polling stations open 24 hours non-stop: this peculiarity specific to certain offices in Harris County will no longer be authorized.

For Professor Jones, “The wish to be able to vote while driving can be seen as a negative reflection of Americans, too lazy to bother to get out of their cars to vote, especially when they have two weeks of early voting and the election day to vote ”. Although he himself voted in «drive-thru», the academic considers that this voting method presents more vulnerabilities than voting in person, while emphasizing that he does not share the assertion that a large-scale fraud tipped the election.

Unconstitutionality lawsuit

Other controversial provisions include the inability of those assisted to ask questions of the accompanying person, which would result in a violation of constitutional and federal law. “The current law only allows you to read the ballot, mark it or tell the voter how to mark it. The argument here is that it violates the rights guaranteed by the 1isamendment of the person who assists the voter and violates the“Americans with Disabilities Act” preventing Americans with disabilities from making the most effective use of their right to vote by limiting the type of assistance they can receive ”, analyse Mark P. Jones.

A reservation that he also expresses with regard to poll watchers, these partisan people responsible for keeping an eye on what is happening in the polling stations – the text now gives them greater freedom of action. “For the small group of vulnerable voters who find themselves in a polling station with an aggressive partisan observer or for the small group of voters who cannot vote effectively without asking questions of the person assisting them, their ability to exercising their right to vote will be affected by this legislation ”, he emphasizes. However, the teacher is just as confident as the Texas government about the ability of the law to survive judicial review: “I expect this legislation to be constitutionally correct, with the possible exception of restrictions on people who assist voters who are unable to vote for themselves.”

The text appears particularly “measured”, as designed to pass a constitutionality check.

In conclusion, the “Senate Bill 1” seems much less restrictive than its opposition suggests. Where a number of comments underlined constraints, the text appears particularly “measure”, as designed to pass a constitutionality check. The “Collection of newsletters” (pejoratively designated by the expression “harvest”) remains permitted on a voluntary basis, just as identity verification for postal voting is much less restrictive than what the Texan state was able to offer: the driving license number – even expired – or the last four digits of the Social Security are enough.

“Sometimes I laugh when I am told that a law that allows two weeks of early voting from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days of the week and which allows 12 hours to vote on election day is sort of anti- democratic because it does not allow voting behind the wheel and voting 24 hours a day ”, confides Mark Jones, assiduous observer of the democratic exercise at the international level. Some will judiciously object that the elections take place on weekdays and not on weekends: the “Senate Bill 1” obliges employers to release their staff on polling day or during the advance voting period.



Source: Slate.fr by www.slate.fr.

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