The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Texas has been in the news a lot in the past week, mostly for the law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to block the law. I suppose I understand the attention, as that is one of the most passionately argued issues in contemporary American politics, but it also isn’t the only thing that Texas is up to.
On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new election reform bill into law. You may recall this as the law that prompted Democrats to flee the state in a vain and ultimately futile attempt to block the passage of the bill.
The law has frequently been compared to similar election reform bills in states like Georgia, Arizona and Florida, all three of which have caused much consternation and gnashing of teeth among the American left. And indeed, there are similar reforms in the bill.
The law does a number of things, including limiting so-called “around-the-clock” polling stations, restricting drive-through voting and making significant changes to tighten up the rules for absentee balloting. It also increases the ability of partisan poll watchers to actually observe the election and watch for potential shenanigans, and it strengthens the voter identification requirement in Texas.
Like the aforementioned reforms in other states, none of these things should be all that controversial to a neutral observer. In my view, each and every one of those changes has a very solid, logical and reasonable reason behind it, all of which are meant to bring some level of control and oversight to the voting system, to maintain its integrity. Interestingly, the law also expands access in some places by increasing the minimum number of early voting hours.
But this is the world of politics, where an army of partisan politicians, special interest groups, and talking head pundits are incentivized to be as sensationalist as possible in responding to laws passed by their mortal enemies. Take, for instance, Marc Elias, attorney for four groups in Texas suing over the law.
“Year after year, Texas has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country, yet Republicans in the state remain intent on limiting access to the ballot box, particularly for voters of color,” Elias said in an email to The Hill. “After Texas Democrats blocked the passage of past iterations of the bill in the regular legislative session and the first special session, Republicans finally achieved their goal of enacting a law, Senate Bill 1, that limits almost every method of voting in the state.”
This line of attack is common on the left. Supposedly, the law is racist and is targeting minority communities, seeking to prevent Democratic voters from actually registering a choice in elections.
Of course, none of these same partisans ever bother trying to deal with left-wing reforms that are intended to make it more likely that Democrats get elected. Apparently, the only people playing games with the election process for partisan gain are Republicans.
At the end of the day, all we need to do is ask ourselves one question: If I want to vote, am I afforded a reasonable, simple and accomplishable way of doing that?
If the answer is yes, all rhetoric about supposedly “restricting” voting or attempting to depress turnout in this group or that group is just politically motivated nonsense. If you are a person in Texas who wants to vote, are you able to do that in many ways?
The answer is obviously yes. If you want to vote in Texas, you are able to access an absentee ballot if you want one, well in advance of the election. You are afforded a mechanism for early voting if you so choose. You can vote on Election Day. And all you really need to do in order to do that is prove you are who you say you are by showing an ID, in much the same way you have to when buying cough medicine at the drug store, or when getting on an airplane.
If you want to vote, does any of that sound difficult to navigate? Does any of that make it hard for you to vote?
I don’t think so. None of these proposals is extreme, and they don’t make it hard to vote. These changes are meant to give a greater sense of security and integrity to a system. And that should be viewed as a good thing.
Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Policy Institute, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C.