THE GOP HOLDS EVERY statewide elective office in Texas, from railroad commissioner to comptroller to governor. The party has controlled the state senate for a quarter-century and its house for 19 years. In November, its voters backed Donald Trump over Joe Biden by nearly six percentage points while sending an overwhelmingly Republican delegation to Congress. And yet the Texas GOP is waging war on the democracy it dominates.
Republicans have pushed anti-democratic election “reforms” in states across the country, but Senate Bill 7 lends credence to the claim that everything is bigger in Texas—even partisan attacks on free elections. The bill (which Democrats have stalled for now) doesn’t just feature all of the GOP’s latest innovations in voter suppression (like restrictions on early, absentee, and drive-through voting). It also contains a variety of measures that abet election subversion. The law would make it easier for state officials to throw out voters’ ballots on the basis of signature mismatches, a demonstrably unreliable means of identity verification. It would make it a criminal offense for a local official to provide an absentee-ballot application to a voter who has not requested one, punishable by prison time, while imposing no similar penalty on officials who deny eligible voters a chance to cast a ballot, thereby incentivizing administrators to err on the side of disenfranchisement. The most troubling part of the legislation is its apparent attempt to lay the groundwork for the invalidation of ballots en masse.
The Texas GOP’s war on democracy is one of choice, not necessity. Republicans do face demographic headwinds, with the state’s Hispanic population set to become a plurality. And yet in the 2020 election, the party made enormous gains in the state’s heavily Hispanic border counties. The notion that Texas Republicans must choose between subverting democracy and allowing demographic change to render their party a permanent minority is a paranoid fantasy.
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