Most Important Voting Rights Issues in Texas This Session
Voting in Texas has always been tough, but the 87th Texas Legislature worked relentlessly to ensure that it would be harder than ever before–resulting in tens of thousands of mail ballot rejections in 2022. The 88th Texas Legislature has the opportunity to fix the damage its predecessor caused, while also enacting positive reforms that would make voting easier and more secure.
This Legislative Session our Voting Rights team is committed to the following priorities:
No new voter suppression laws: Texas is already one of the hardest places to vote in the entire country thanks to a long campaign of voter suppression–a crisis deepened by the passage of Senate Bill 1 in 2021. Instead of doubling down on this war on democracy, Texas must address the real crisis in our elections, by dismantling the web of laws that prevent Texans from voting and which do nothing to make our elections more secure.
Spare voters from Senate Bill 1’s disastrous mail ballot provisions, which wrongly caused tens of thousands of mail ballot rejections: Senate Bill 1’s requirement that voters provide certain identification numbers on their vote-by-mail materials has been a disaster for Texas voters. Over 12,000 voters had their mail ballot applications rejected and over 24,000 voters had their mail ballots thrown out in the March 2022 Primary–nearly all of them eligible voters who should not have lost their right to vote because of this unnecessary new process.
Mandate that counties give all voters the opportunity to cure problems with their mail ballot at every stage of the process: In 2021, the Legislature created a process that would require counties in some circumstances–but not all–to provide notice to mail ballot voters of defects in their returned ballot, as well as an opportunity to cure the problem. Unfortunately, if the county determines that it would not be possible to send the ballot back to the voter in time for the voter to correct and return it, then the county can choose not to provide notice and an opportunity to cure.
Require curbside voting signage at every polling place to vindicate the right to vote of people with disabilities and those with health or mobility issues: Texans can vote from their cars at polling places if their physical condition prevents them from going inside safely. But many voters don’t know they’re eligible for this option because not every polling place has signs out front to tell voters how to access curbside, or even that it exists.
Require polling places on all college campuses with a student body population over 3,000 students: In 2022, only 50% of public Texas universities had early polling places, and less than 20% of HBCUs had early polling places. Establishing polling places on college campuses with over 3,000 students increases access to the polls for young voters.
Allow Texans to vote a limited ballot on Election Day: If a registered voter moves between counties without registering in their new county, they can vote on the races that their old and new counties have in common–but only during Early Voting, leaving such voters with no option to vote on Election Day itself.
Bolster Texas’s high school voter registration program: Texas law currently requires every high school in the state to offer voter registration to eligible students at least twice each year. But the state’s current process for providing registration forms to schools is so burdensome and unnecessarily bureaucratic that many schools don’t get enough registration forms for their students. The Legislature can address this problem by requiring the Secretary of State to proactively provide enough forms to register every eligible student to each school at the beginning of every semester.
Allow Texans under the age of 18 to vote in primaries if they will be eligible to vote in the subsequent general election: Although young Texans can vote in general elections once they turn 18, many cannot vote in the primary elections that choose the nominees who will appear on the ballot because they only turn 18 after the primary.
Provide affirmative notice to people at the end of a felony sentence that they are now eligible to vote, as well as an opportunity to re-register to vote: When a Texan with a felony conviction finishes their sentence, as well as all the “conditions” associated with it, they become eligible to vote in this state again. But many of them aren’t aware that they have automatically regained their voting rights because election officials don’t affirmatively provide such notice.
This session, we will fight back against any effort to suppress the vote and seek to help pass positive election reforms where possible so that all Texans have access to the ballot box and are represented in the election process.
But TCRP cannot fight and win legislative battles on its own. We need support from people like you to make sure we truly stand up for every Texans’ right to vote this session.