By FRC Action's Worth Loving
Leading up to last year's presidential election, conservatives warned that mail-in ballot procedures implemented in many cities across the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic were ripe for fraud and abuse. Now, in the wake of that contested election, many Republican governors and state legislatures have taken steps to protect the integrity of their elections and to ensure irregularities like the ones that occurred in 2020 never happen again. As expected, they've faced fierce opposition from their Democratic counterparts who claim that election integrity laws disenfranchise minorities and threaten our democracy. We saw this in Florida and Georgia earlier this year as national Democrats denounced these states' election reform bills and woke corporations boycotted them in droves.
Now, Texas has become the latest state to tackle election integrity. Just yesterday, Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed SB 1 into law, stating that the new policy "will solidify trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat." Abbott's signing of the bill ended a months-long battle with Democrats, who attempted to kill the bill by letting the regular session of the legislature expire in May and then fleeing the state to deny Abbott a quorum on the bill in July. Now, after two special sessions, the bill has finally become law.
So, amidst all the misinformation being spread by the mainstream media, here's what the law actually does. It bans 24-hour voting and drive-through voting -- practices that weren't even used until Harris County implemented them during last year's pandemic. It's reasonable to think polling places could be more prone to fraud and abuse at 3 a.m. when most people are sleeping. Contrary to the Leftist media's opinion, SB 1 actually expands early voting hours, requiring polling places to be open at least nine hours a day. The bill also mandates six hours of Sunday voting in counties with 55,000 people. Voters in line at an early voting location when it closes will now be allowed to vote that day, a provision that was previously only allowed for Election Day voters.
The bill also includes necessary provisions for protecting the integrity of mail-in ballots. Texans who vote by mail will have to provide a driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number so that election workers can easily verify their identity rather than trying to match signatures. If a voter makes a mistake on his or her ballot, the bill requires election officials to give the voter an opportunity to correct it. Additionally, SB 1 bars election officials from mailing unsolicited ballot applications to voters, an offense punishable by up to one year in jail. Furthermore, the bill bans ballot harvesting "in exchange for compensation," a third-degree felony that carries a two to 10-year prison sentence.
The bill will also make it harder for criminals to take advantage of elderly or disabled voters who need assistance when voting. It will require the person assisting the voter to list his or her name, address, and relationship to the voter and to sign an oath that the voter is eligible for assistance due to a physical disability or language barrier.
To help with voter integrity in election offices, the bill requires the state to audit four random counties every two years. In counties with more than 100,000 people, officials will be required to livestream the counting process from a central location. Additionally, mail-in ballots will be reported separately on election night returns.
Perhaps the most important provision of SB 1 is that it expands the power of poll watchers, those selected by political parties to monitor elections for irregularities. The bill states that poll watchers cannot be denied access to polling places and that they must have an unobstructed view of all election activity inside polling places and vote-counting centers. Election officials who deny access to poll watchers could face up to one year in jail. The bill requires the Secretary of State's office to create an online course that all poll watchers must complete before they can enter a polling place. Poll watchers must also sign an oath that they will not "disrupt the voting process."
Democrats have wasted no time in lambasting the bill, calling it "the new Jim Crow" all the while pushing their overhaul of elections at the federal level with HR 4. But the Constitution clearly authorizes the "times, places and manner" of elections to be handled by state legislatures. And while the Left will continue pushing the narrative that Senate Bill 1 disenfranchises minority voters because of the ID requirement, even the late liberal Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that voter ID is "amply justified by the valid interest in protecting 'the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.'" In fact, 36 states require some form of ID to vote. And the vast majority of Texans -- 67 percent -- agree that voter ID protections are needed for mail-in ballots.
Proponents of the bill are confident that SB 1 will also stand up in the court of law. In fact, a federal appeals court recently upheld a provision of the Georgia election law that requires absentee voters to supply their own postage stamp, which the ACLU claimed was a poll tax. In their opinion, the judges stated such allegations "border on the frivolous."
As a constitutional republic, the United States gives its people the privilege of choosing their elected leaders, a sacred right few other countries enjoy. That is reason enough to protect the integrity of our elections. Those fighting these reform efforts have one goal -- to undermine our republic and force their radical liberal agenda on every single American. We applaud Governor Abbott and the Texas legislature for their boldness and encourage other states to follow suit so that every voter can go to the polls next November and feel confident that their ballot will be counted securely.