A massive bill to implement voting restrictions across Texas, including bans on drive-thru voting and added authority to partisan poll watchers, is heading to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk after being passed Tuesday by the state legislature. Such voting restrictions would be especially damaging to the rising political influence of women of color.
Opponents of the bill, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Brennan Center for Justice, have denounced the legislation as blocking voting access for people of color and Americans with disabilities. Areas like Harris County — which is home to Houston and has a majority population of Latinx, Black and Asian Texans — pioneered drive-thru polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.
Across the country, Asian American and Pacific Islander women and Latinas overwhelmingly drove participation in the 2020 election over AAPI men and Latinos in last year’s record-setting turnout. Black women held outsized influence in Texas, Georgia and Florida, per Democratic polling firm Targetsmart, and have long led efforts to expand voting rights.
Eighteen states — including Texas — have passed legislation this year to shorten windows to apply for mail-in ballots, limit mail ballot drop boxes, further restrict voter ID requirements, limit early voting times and expand voter purgers, per the Brennan Center.
Texas Republicans conceded a few of Democrats’ major complaints with the bill, including a plan to restrict early voting on Sundays, which critics said would have disproportionately affected Black churchgoers. The final version of the bill also allowed an extra hour for weekday early voting, per The New York Times.
Still, voting rights groups are still sounding the alarm amid a second special legislative session, currently set to end September 6, that has largely revolved around gender — including efforts to ban transgender students from participating insports that match their gender identity, and ban the delivery of abortion drugs by mail.
Texas’ Senate Bill 1 will likely face several challenges in court — including by Voto Latino, which pledged to take legal action on Tuesday night.