The Week (US)
The showdown over new voting restrictions
The national battle over restrictive new election laws dramatically escalated this week, after Texas Democratic lawmakers derailed the passage of a controversial new bill by walking out of the statehouse and the Republican governor threatened to strip funding for their salaries and staff. In a surprise revolt, 60 Democrats quietly exited a Sunday-night legislative session, thus depriving Republicans of a quorum. The bill would have banned drive-through and 24-hour voting used by many Black and Hispanic voters in the Houston area in 2020, imposed new restrictions on mail-in voting, and ended early voting on Sunday morning, when many Black churchgoers have traditionally gone to the polls. It also would have made it easier for judges to overturn contested election results. Republicans say the law is needed to ensure election integrity. It’s “a strong bill that gives accessibility & security to Texas elections,” tweeted co-sponsor Sen. Bryan Hughes. But Democrats say the clear goal is to quash turnout among voters of color, who overwhelmingly lean Democratic. “Every American needs to be watching what’s happening in Texas right now,” said Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas). “This isn’t legislation, it’s discrimination.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to call lawmakers, who adjourned for the summer, back for a special session to pass the bill. He threatened to strip funding for legislators and their staffs from a pending budget. “No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities,” he tweeted. “Stay tuned.”
President Biden promised to “fight like heck” against Republican efforts to restrict voting, which have led to passage of morestringent voting laws in 14 states, including Florida, Georgia, and Iowa. He said Vice President Kamala Harris would lead the administration’s efforts to pass H.R. 1, the sweeping federal bill that would establish national standards for election administration. “This sacred right is under assault with incredible intensity like I’ve never seen,” Biden said.
What the editorials said
Texas Republicans are engaged in a “scandalous charade,” said the Houston Chronicle. Their bill is rank “voter suppression” masquerading as voting integrity, which Republicans tried to ram through using “underhanded, spineless, political gamesmanship.” Texas Republicans have struggled mightily to find proof of widespread fraud, and repeatedly failed. So why did Texas need to make it harder to vote? “We didn’t.”
Spare us the “melodrama,” said The Wall Street Journal. This bill is no “assault on democracy.” It rolls back “Covid-19 innovations” like drivethrough and 24-hour voting. But when did emergency pandemic measures “suddenly become the new baseline?” Texas voters would still get some two weeks of early voting—more than in “Biden’s beloved Delaware.” And courts could only require an election do-over if the number of illegal ballots exceeded the margin between winning and losing candidates.
What the columnists said
“Democrats, this is how you do it,” said Jay Michaelson in TheDailyBeast.com. To block this travesty of a bill, Texas Democrats actually fought rather than get rolled over, using “tricks, stunts, and gambits” to block its passage and calling national attention to Republicans’ “cravenly self-interested” votersuppression efforts. On both the state and federal level, Democrats need to pull out all stops to derail the “racist and anti-democratic freight train” barreling across the nation.
The Democrats’ “moral panic” over new voting laws is “misplaced,” said Jonah Goldberg in TheDispatch.com. Progressives believe “maximizing turnout is essential to democracy,” while conservatives believe “integrity” is paramount. There are goodfaith arguments for both positions. Some new Republican voting restrictions “are manifestly unreasonable,” but many more aren’t, such as requiring voter ID. And if Republicans are seeking advantage, that’s no less true of Democrats pushing H.R. 1, which would federalize elections and “do all sorts of unreasonable things to drive up turnout.”